Starting Middle School

Jennifer Arnold by Jennifer Arnold Additional Needs

Jennifer Arnold

Jennifer Arnold

I’m passionate about raising awareness about disability issues through education and outreach. When I’m not wearing my writer hat, I’m usually tryi...

Before my daughter started middle school this year, I had been having big time anxiety about it. She had a very rough beginning when she started at her previous school; it seemed not a week went by that we didn’t get a phone call to pick her up or to come and help calm her down due to her behaviors.

It took several months for her to settle in at her old school and I was afraid there would be a repeat situation this year.

Starting a new school is a huge adjustment, and for kids on the autism spectrum like Lilly, big changes or any type of transition can be extremely challenging. A few days before the end of the last school year, we went to visit her new classroom, and it went better than I had expected.

If you have ever seen the sitcom “Cheers,” the reaction of the kids in the class was similar to when Norm would walk into the bar. Excited yells of former classmates and old friends yelling “Lillyyyy!”. Lots of hugs and jumping up and down. Two of the girls took her hands and gave her a tour while I chatted with her teacher.

There are some big changes in middle school, and I had no idea how she would respond to them. There is no playground for recess. As it is a middle school area of a K-8 school, they have a blacktop; a courtyard type area where the kids hang out and eat.

They don’t have an Occupational Therapy room at the new school. This was a big deal since the OT room was her favorite place at school.

She also has to meet weekly academic goals to earn prizes. If she doesn’t, that could be a huge trigger for her. The good thing is that she will be working towards those goals by practicing at home so we will be able to gauge if she will meet the goal or not, and tweak the goals if we need to with her teacher.

Another factor to add into the mix with entering middle school is the onset of puberty, with comes with its own set of challenges.

There have been a few bumps in the road so far; it would be unrealistic to expect otherwise.

We’ve gotten a few phone calls, but three calls over a month and a half compared to three within the first week of school two years ago is a huge success in my book! Overall, it has been a good beginning of the school year.

She loves going to school and loves being with her friends. I am looking forward to watching her navigate this next chapter and watching her grow.



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