Moving from elementary school to middle school can be especially scary for students with learning disabilities. If your child will be moving into middle school next year, it might be a good idea to think about what things will be different for him.
Start by thinking about what her day is like this year. Is she in a resource center all day? Does she go to some classes in the large classroom and some at the center? Does she spend the whole day in one place?
Then, think about what his day will be like next year in middle school. Typical changes include more movement between classes, a bigger building to move around in, and more teachers to interact with each day. There might be more talking about grades as well.
Just for parents: Read SchoolFamily.com’s article 10 Tips for Middle School Parents, to familiarize yourself with ways to stay involved and in touch with your child as she transitions to middle school.
All children, and especially those with learning differences, fear the unknown. You might want to read my earlier blog, Fear of the Unknown Creates Anxiety, for more information. To help your child transition more smoothly, you may want to do some of the following.
- Talk with your child. Find out what her concerns are. Try to figure out a way to alleviate these concerns. And, remember, all children are a little worried about going into middle school.
- Find out what resources will be available. Once your child knows what his program will be like, allow him to do some thinking about the changes. One way to do this is by drawing pictures. Perhaps having him draw a poster of what things are like now and what they will be like next year would help. Or, if he likes to write, a “compare and contrast” essay is a good way to think through the changes.
- Visit the middle school. Get permission to walk through the building and look in some of the classes. It might even help to do this before the school year ends this year. That way your child will see that middle school kids are just regular kids and middle school teachers are just regular people. And, middle school buildings are just regular buildings—just a little bigger.
- Meet her teachers. If your child is particularly worried, try to schedule a brief get-acquainted meeting with some or all of her middle school teachers. At the minimum, she should meet her special education teacher, the guidance counselor, or the school psychologist. This way, she will know she has a friend in the school who’ll help her if she needs it.
Make sure he has a friend. Having a friend who will be moving up to middle school with him next year is the best thing that can happen for him. The two students will feel more confident approaching their new school together. They can talk about their day and things that happened in school. Middle school students rely more on friends and less on parents. It will be important for your child’s self-esteem for you to allow that to happen naturally.
The time you spend discussing and learning about middle school will help your child make a smooth transition next year. Feel free to comment below if you have more ideas of ways to help with this—I always love having your input!