The move from elementary school to middle school is a hard transition for most kids but especially when kids have ADHD. So even though you’re on the downward slope to summertime, it’s a good idea to start thinking Back to School now so you can get a jump on easing the inevitable transition anxiety your child with ADHD will experience.
Tips for Easing the Transition to Middle School
Here a few things to do now, that can make it easier on your child when middle school starts in the Fall.
- Make an appointment with the school counselor that will be assigned to your child so they can meet, you can fill them in on your child’s specific needs/issues/concerns and your child knows who to go to for support.
- Find out if the school will have an orientation/transition field trip before school ends this year. If not, when you meet with the counselor, ask if the counselor will show your child around. Even if your child won’t know yet where specific classes will be, he/she will feel better knowing where to find the gym, cafeteria, restrooms, etc. Also, ask if you can get a map of the school so your child can get familiar with the layout (and can plot out a “plan of attack” for going to one class to another when schedules arrive later in the summer).
- Speaking of schedules, when you get your child’s schedule (usually later in the summer), look at it to find out if there are any changes that need to be made to accommodate your child’s needs, e.g., having a math class earlier in the day when ADHD meds have kicked in. If you want to make changes, call the school and ask to meet with the counselor before school starts. The first week of school is crazy-busy for counselors and at that point, it may be too late to make changes–not to mention how disruptive it will be to change around a schedule after your child has had a chance to get used to it.
- If the school has lockers with combination locks and your child is not familiar with them, it’s a good idea to buy a lock and let him/her practice opening it this summer. There are also videos on YouTube on how to open a combination lock.
- Once school starts, introduce yourself to all your child’s teachers and let them know how to reach you. This will be your “team” for the school year so you want to keep the lines of communication open. Also, if your child has an IEP or 504 accommodation plan, make sure that all the teachers have a copy.
- Don’t go overboard with buying school supplies before school starts. Many of the teachers in middle school will have specific things they will want your child to get so it’s best to wait until after the first few days of school before you go back-to-school shopping. All your child really needs to start school is something to write on and something to write with (actually, lots of ‘somethings to write with’ since pens and pencils tend to ‘disappear’ when you have ADHD!). Also, before you go shopping for clothes, find out if the school has any dress code restrictions (many schools no longer allow backpacks, hats, and certain colors.) Best to find out before you spend money and find out something is not allowed!
- Fight the temptation to tell your child how horrible middle school was for you (even if it was)! Instead, start talking about middle school as an adventure and an exciting time in a person’s life—an opportunity to explore elective classes, a chance to have a fresh start, etc. Remember, our thoughts result in our emotions so if your child thinks “adventure” instead of “torture/something to dread”, he/she will feel a lot more calm and excited when it’s time to attend middle school in the Fall.
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