The transition from elementary school to middle school is one of the most difficult times for children with ADHD. They go from a single teacher and a simplified structure to moving from one classroom to another throughout the day. They’re suddenly responsible for keeping track of belongings as they go from place to place, they have more planning and organizational requirements and they have more homework than during earlier grades.
The following are tips to help you make your child’s transition to middle school easier.
Visit early. In the weeks before school begins, take time to tour the middle school and meet your child’s new teachers. Your child might feel more confident on the first day if he already walked around the school and knows where his classrooms, the restrooms and the cafeteria are located.
Talk to your child about whathelps him succeed in school. As parents, we may come up with a list of suggested modifications for the classroom but often forget to ask our children what they have found works. Your child might find sitting next to the window very distracting, or he might dislike the noise emitted by computers and other electronics. He might find having someone help him gather materials and books at the end of the day helpful. Bring your child into the process.
Ask previous teachers to attend a meeting with new teachers. Hearing what your child needs in the classroom and how to best help her might be better received when it comes from other school professionals. Set up a meeting for the beginning of the year to meet with the new teachers and explain your child’s needs. Once you have a date set, ask your child’s teacher from elementary school to attend and give this year’s teachers an insight into helping your child.
Set up** communication schedules** and methods so you know on a regular basis how your child is doing and whether he is keeping up with homework and classwork. The beginning of the year is the best time to put communication methods into place, if these aren’t already listed on an IEP/504. For many parents, an email once a week is all it takes.
Request that your child be given extended time to make up assignments, without dragging down her grades. One way to accomplish this is to have the teacher send you a notice of a missed assignment. From the time the email is sent, your child might be given three days to hand the work to the teacher.
Find out if the teachers use a portal to post assignments. Some schools have an online portal where each teacher posts assignments, including dates for upcoming projects and tests. Checking the portal at least once a week can keep you up to date on what homework your child should be doing each night.
Set up a meeting with the special education teacher. You want to make sure that everyone is clear that any previous accommodations are still being followed in middle school. Bring up any concerns or ideas for new accommodations.
Look for** warning signs of learning disabilities**. Sometimes learning disabilities go undetected until middle school when there are more demands on your child. Falling grades, difficulty keeping up with reading assignments, resistance to reading, or poor writing skills can all signal a learning disability. If you notice warning signs, request an assessment.
Continue to** practice social skills**. Social interaction takes on a whole new meaning during middle school. Use dinnertime to practice conversational skills, role-play meeting new people and review body language and facial expressions. Children with ADHD often have a hard time understanding unspoken social cues.
Look forapps that can help your child stay organized. Rather than trying to keep track of a notebook with homework assignments, look for an app where your child can input assignments and due dates. Ask teachers to review the app to make sure the information is accurate.
ADHD in the Middle School Student: ISACS.org
Age-related Decline of ADHD Symptoms Disrupted by Middle School: National Institute of Mental Health
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.