For years, I was preparing to send my oldest child to middle school. As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, I felt like I had to advocate even more for this big milestone. One classroom and teacher in the elementary school would be a lot different than nine periods a day with just as many, if not more teachers. Middle schools are much larger, there are many more students, and it is a tough time developmentally for most if not all preteens.
Without going into too many specifics, we had an amazing IEP for the start of middle school. Everyone at school greeted us at orientation with smiles and showed us around. The day before school, we went back in drop items off to the locker and make sure the lock was mastered. Each time we went to visit, the individuals at school were amazing. They knew my son, welcomed him, and eased my fears.
The first day of school came and went with only parental nerves on edge. NHL was excited for a fresh start. He was thrilled to already have his schedule memorized. He could not stop talking about having Social Studies and Science every day. He came out of school with a smile on his face and I was able to breathe.
What TechyDad and I experienced the next morning shocked us. NHL hopped out of bed and ran into our room telling is to get moving because he wanted to get to school. There was no hesitation, just energy and excitement to go and learn more from his teachers. This continued the following week. Each day, my son was more excited to go to middle school.
After I sent my son to school for the second full week, I did something that was important to me. I stopped to write a note to every member of my son’s team to let them know I was thankful. The middle school transition could have been a disaster. The reality was that because of everyone involved, NHL was off to a great start.
As I pushed the send button, I was a bit nervous. After so many years of fighting for supports and struggles, I did not want to jinx anything. Still, it was the right time to cheer everyone up and let them know. As a middle school teacher, I know you do not often hear positive feedback. So I sent the email to the principals, several people in the Special Education department, and the guidance counselor. At the last second, I decided to add one more person. Yes, my note praising the team at the middle school for helping my son transition also went to the superintendent of our district.
The responses from various people made me know that I did the right thing. It made me feel wonderful to know that I had made them smile and lifted their spirits.
So why am I writing this post?
My hope is that someone may read it and it will help them as their child is transitioning from elementary to middle school. While I know they are likely as worried as I was waiting for middle school to start, I want to reassure them that it may be just what the doctor ordered for your child. The structure of the day, the fresh beginning for each class period, and the mixture of different students helped my son. My Aspie adores knowing his schedule and not having to worry about changes within a single classroom. The structure of middle school allows that and so far he is doing very well. Sure there will be bumps in the road, but with the support of his team and open communication this experience could open up the world for my child.