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Starting middle school is stressful for any student, but the process can be even more challenging for a student on the autism spectrum (ASD) and for his or her parents. Many things will be different. The school will probably be larger, the campus more confusing and the enrollment may be several times greater than in elementary school. The student likely will not know his or her new teachers and, in turn, the teachers might not know anything about the student. The aide, if one is needed and provided, may be a stranger. Many of the students will not know their classmate with ASD. Planning for the transition process will ideally begin several months before the actual transition occurs.
In any given class, the student may find no familiar faces. The student might change classes not only every period, but sometimes may have certain classes for only a semester, a quarter or on alternate days. There will be greater demands for independence in terms of work habits. The homework assignments will be more complex and involve more hours of work. There will be different and more complex social demands within the cultural setting of the school and during extracurricular activities. But, there also are new opportunities that were not available in elementary school. Careful planning can make the transition to middle school a success. Planning for the transition process ideally will begin several months before the actual transition occurs. Following is an outline for a process that others have used in developing a successful transition plan. Of course, additional steps may be needed in individual cases.
It’s a good idea for the elementary school team to visit the middle school to:
The elementary school team can:
The elementary school team can:
The parents or school team can:
The middle school or autism support team can:
While this list is geared toward the needs of the student who will be active in the general education classroom, many of the same steps are appropriate for the student who will be in a more restrictive program. This list is not all-inclusive, and individual steps should be added to meet the needs of specific students and their school system. Many of the same strategies will be needed when preparing for the transition from middle school to high school.
Sayers, B. (2006). Transitioning Into Middle School. bellaonline autism spectrum disorders site. (available at http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art48157.asp).
Carter, E., Clark, N., Cushing, L., & Cennedy, C. (2005). moving from elementary to middle school: supporting a smooth transition for students with severe disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 37(3): 8-14.
Dana, T. (2005). Fitting in & having fun: Moving on to middle school: Vol. 2. td
social skills. (dvd). (available at www.tdsocialskills.com/video2.htm).
Frohoff , K. (July/august 2004). a team approach to transitioning students with autism from elementary to middle school. Autism Asperger’s Digest Magazine.
Myles, B.S., & Adreon, D. (2001). Asperger syndrome and adolescence: Practical solutions for school success. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.
Palmer, A. (2005). Realizing the college dream with autism or Asperger syndrome: A parent’s guide to student success. (pp. 26-30). london:Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Palmer, A. (2006). Strategies for surviving middle school with an included child with autism. Chapel Hill, NC: TEACCH Autism Program, UNC Department of Psychiatry. (available at http://teacch.com/survive.html).
Wagner, S. (2002). Inclusive programming for middle school students with autism/Asperger’s syndrome. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons, Inc
This resource created by Autism Society