Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
My son Nicholas will be twelve when he enters Middle School as a sixth grader. This will be happening in just a few short months. The school is year round so I am still unclear on whether he starts in July or August of 2007.
Nicholas is fully included in the general education system. The RSP consults with the general education teacher fifteen minutes per month, he gets preferred seating to be in close proximity of the teacher and has extended time for state testing, which is done in the library with other IEP students.
The middle school for our residence is quite far and requires driving to get there. The start time for homerooom is before 7:30 AM. Currently my son rises at 7:00 AM so this will be a big change for him. He has been bringing his lunch to school since he was in Kindergarten.
Besides just going to this middle school we have the option of applying to a Magnet or Charter School. Magnets offer transportation but Charter Schools do not, which makes the decision between the two easier. We are in Los Angeles School District (LAUSD) with my son being a minority at his Elementary School. There are 325 students and my son is one of fifteen Caucasian students.
He scored advanced in the math testing and proficient in Language Arts, but 21 points below what is needed to apply at a Gifted Magnet. I was told that since he has an IEP I should attach a copy of this to the application for a Magnet. LAUSD has a website where you can check out the ethnic makeup of the school and see the years of experience for the teachers.
The magnets that are close to us have below ten students who are Caucasian, which rules them out for my son as I am not going to put him in a school where he could be subjected to bullying due to his race and also his disability. It looks like he is going to the school that is within our residence.
I have called the Middle School to ask which month my son will be starting and have not been called back after leaving several messages. We have visited the website for the school and learned that they have to wear uniforms. I have printed out a map of the school and the school lunches for one week to get a sense of what they offer. I figured Nicholas should start with buying lunch so he would not stand out as being different. In our area most families qualify for the free lunch so there are only a handful of kids at the Elementary School who bring their lunch.
I started buying dinners that are similar to what they serve in school so Nicholas will be familiar with the meals. We also noticed that they need to purchase a gym uniform for $25 and the website explains how they buy lunch tickets at the store.
I plan on buying the uniforms once I get the income tax refund and also a nice outfit for his fifth grade culmination. Some of the students have been discussing Middle School with one another and parents have started the discussion.
Last week at the parent-teacher conference it was discussed with the fifth grade teacher. Her feedback was that many parents are asking for recommendations and suggestions on Middle School. I talked to the Assistant Principal and told her how we were preparing for the transition.
I have decided it would be better if we drove another student along with us so Nicholas is not walking into Middle School alone. There are two boys he has known who live nearby that we can see about carpooling and a female student who could ride with us in the morning.
I called our local Parent Resource Network for some advice on this transition and was suggested to ask for Orientation and Mobility Training at the IEP. I also mentioned that I was worried about Nicholas not being able to write down his homework assignments and get to his next class in time. To help with this obstacle parents can ask for Assistive Technology so that their child can have a tape recorder to get their homework documented for them. Another option for the child with poor writing skills would be to ask about an Alpha Smart for their child. This could be funded through the AT department or other resources.
I researched to find examples of Orientation and Mobility Training since the Assistant Principal stated she never heard of it and I figured it would be a battle at the IEP in a few months. Here is some data I found at the following site:
" While IDEA continues to classify students with disabilities according to category, in many instances curriculum and instructional practices can be applied more generically. Students with complex healthcare issues, significant developmental delays, and severe multiple disabilities require approaches that offer intensive levels of support. Students who are blind, deaf, deaf-blind, and autistic may in some cases require the same degree of support, but they also require more specialized curriculum and teaching approaches (in, for example, technology and literacy). Additionally, such students may require specialized resources from related service providers (such as orientation and mobility instructors or audiologists)."
Our morning routine is going to be changing drastically as the wake-up time will be much earlier and the time we leave the house. Matthew will most likely be returning to the same school he is currently at for fifth grade in his autism class so we will all have to head out before 7:00 AM to take Nicholas to school and then come home for only a few minutes before going to Matthew's school.
Since I do not know when Nicholas will start school the summer camp is unclear for both kids as they are in opposite directions which would require a lot of driving on my part. Nicholas does not want to be with autistic kids at camp because he is in general education, but Matthew needs the routine of Camp to help him over the summer before school.
I bought a book that is about Middle School that has nothing to do with autism. I will be reading it first and then Nicholas can. There are also books relating to Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger's Syndrome for teens dealing with social issues and adolescence that I plan on purchasing and perusing by spring break.
There are a lot of differences between Middle School and Elementary School. These books help teach children about lunch break, eating skills, crisis drills, homeroom, going to the nurse, gym and locker room issues, going to the bathroom requests, taking the bus, waiting for the bus, cliques, flirting,extra curricular activities, sports, groups, school dances, homework, teachers, subjects, foreign language, electives, bookbags, notebooks, showers, rules and grooming plus other issues that may arise in the Middle School setting.
I first read teaching social rules in the More Advanced Individuals with Autism, Aspergerís Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (MAAP) Newsletter, which was excerpted from Asperger Syndrome & Adolescence: Practical Solutions for school success and then found the book on Amazon.
Another book I found in the same series is Helping Preteens and Teens get ready for the real world. Since during the fifth grade the students are tested on physical fitness they have been doing laps around the playground. At back to school nite the teacher responded to my question by explaining what that entailed - doing sit ups and push ups and other physical tests. I showed Nicholas on a yoga mat at home how to do pushups and situps and he has been practicing so he is prepared for the testing later in the school year.
Motivating Students who have Autism Spectrum Disorders Indiana Resource Center for Autism (IRCA) article
Transition Into Middle School - IRCA article - this was also reproduced in the ASA Advocate, Fourth Edition 2006, Volume 44 and where I first read it.
In my recent Different Roads to Learning catalog I spotted a video, Fitting In and Having Fun - Moving on to Middle School, Volume 2 this 30 minute DVD sells for $59.95 and then it would be $7.95 for s&h. New York City and State residents need to pay sales tax as well.
A bit pricey in my opinion, but nonetheless something I think is imperative for our situation. This consists of tips from students for students. It would be nice to get some families together to share the DVD and pass it around so we are all prepared for Middle School. Send me an emai if this is something of interest to you. The website www.tdsocialskills.com sells it for the same price plus $6.95 s&h and they take paypal.
"Our School Doesn't Offer Inclusion" and Other Legal Blunders by Kids Together, Inc.
Making It Work by Education World
Planning Successful Transitions Across Grade Levels IRCA article
Assistive Technology Tools by 2Learn.ca
Middleweb newsletter signup Exploring Middle School Reform - a resource for teachers and parents
TEACCH - Strategies for Surviving Middle School with an Included Child with Autism
The Transition To Middle School - Ozark Guidance, Focused on your mental health. This document was sourced from ERIC-EECE. However, that site is no longer operational.
Preparing for Middle School _- American School Counselor Association
Living with Autism - Going to Middle School - ASA Article
Transition to Middle School - Lovaas Institute, June 07 newsletter
Mayer Johnson product- From the classroom to the workplace, Vol 1. Great activities for middle and highschool students.
Mentalhelp.net - Helping Middle School Students Make the Transition into High School.
Puberty Resource Page at Pediatrics Now
Ten Tips for Helping Your Child with Asperger Syndrome Get Ready to Return to School
The Oasis Asperger Syndrome Guide For Teachers Letter of Introduction
Urinal Protocol Music Video youTube on social behavior in the boys room
Life Skills for Vocational Success
Life Skills Mastery for Students with Special Needs
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.