The middle school transition is enough to get the anxiety flowing. Say goodbye to sitting in the same seat, with the same teacher, and the same familiarity all day long. Classes and teachers will now change. Entirely new learning environments will have to be adjusted to, as well as the navigating of halls, the sudden shift to being the youngest on campus, and a host of other challenges. Middle school is a completely new structure.
Many people believe that this new structure and environment is difficult for the ADHD child, but with support and guidance, as well as some simple organization and planning, you may actually find that your child blossoms in Middle school. The frequent opportunities for movement, changing of teachers, choices in elective courses and more engaging coursework can help the ADHD child soar. The transition to Middle School can be embraced with great joy and anticipation.
8 ways you can help your ADHD child transition well to Middle School
1. Tour the school and walk through your child’s schedule with them.
This gets your child comfortable and oriented, which will radically reduce anxiety and confusion. Kind of like those pre-birthing tours they make you do.
2. Help your child learn how to use a combination lock.
This can easily be missed, but can a big step in helping your child feel confident and secure. Let them practice it several times before going to school.
3. Purchase a school agenda/planner, show them how to use it, and mark the page they are to start on the first day of school.
Keeping your ADHD middle-schooler organized will go a long way. The more little helps you can give, the better. Marking the page where they need to start is one less problem they will need to solve.
4. Re-write your child’s schedule on a brightly colored index card and attach it to the inside cover of their agenda.
Be sure to include class period, time, course name, teacher name, and room number. This will supply your child's need for structure, and help them not forget where to go! Also, it can be very helpful to look at maps of the building and figure out the best routes to go between classes.
5. Get a list of needed supplies from each teacher.
Check to see how they want the materials organized, and help your child set up their binders, notebooks, etc. Label each item with the child’s name and class name. See these Top 10 Organizational Strategies for ADHD students.
6. Organize a system/space for homework.
Create a clutter-free workspace away from distractions. Provide a 3 hole punch, reinforcements, tape, a stapler, desk or wall calendar, and extra paper, pens, and pencils. Make this space your child's. Give them ownership. Let it be special. Take away as many distractions as possible.
7. Agree upon a system of checks and balances with your child.
Be clear that this is not a punishment; it is an effort to support them in staying motivated and organized. This will not only encourage your child but will help build your relationship and keep you involved. Check out these two school success strategies that will change your child's life.
8. Communicate with your child’s teachers.
Request a conference with the teachers within the first 4 weeks of school to introduce yourself, share important information about your child, establish a relationship, and check on their familiarity with your child’s IEP/504 plan if they have one. Follow up with them frequently. Keep in mind that your child may be just 1 of 150 that their teacher is responsible for.
9. Communicate with your child.
This may seem obvious, but sometimes in the busyness of life, we may forget to spend intentional time connecting with our child. Don't settle for one-word responses. Without being too intrusive, be willing to dig to found out how the day "really" went, how the week went, and how they are doing in general.
There is no reason the transition to middle school should bring panic to parents of ADHD children. This is a time for children to explore their FastBraiin giftedness. Let them spread their wings and begin to fly.