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YippySkippy
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18 Mar 2015, 2:37 pm

So, we're doing this in a few days.
Those of you who've been through the dreaded middle school years, what are the things you're most glad you included in your child's IEP? What, if anything, do you wish you had included in hindsight?
My biggest concern right now is changing classes. I think DS will need help getting to classes on time, with the right materials, and without being bullied in the hallway. I'm also worried about him having multiple teachers, and the likelihood that one or more of them won't be as supportive as one might hope.
I'm also worried a lot about what I don't know. :? I have to go tell people what my son will need in an environment neither of us has encountered yet. Not that I never went to middle school, but you know what I mean.



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18 Mar 2015, 2:45 pm

I would request a few walkthroughs of the school according to his class schedule before school starts.
To make sure he knows the schedule, the route from class to class, where is his locker and if he has time to go there between classes, etc.


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Fitzi
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18 Mar 2015, 6:57 pm

We're not dealing with middle school yet (one more year for my older kid), but I have been having lots of conversations with friends who have kids with IEPs in middle school because my older kid has a lot of executive functioning issues, and I was wondering how they handled it. All of these friends say the thing that helps their kid the most (a couple of the kids have ASD), is communication online. The kids get all of their homework, reminders, etc. online. In some cases, they are the only kids the teacher communicates with this way. One parent (her kid has ASD and ADHD) has the teachers also post all of her son's assignments to her as well because her son is very forgetful. One kid has someone help him pack his things up after each class. None of these kids have someone who walks through the hallway with them, but the ones with ASD are in ASD programs, so that is not an issue. But, if you are concerned for your child's safety and ability to get to the right place, you might be able to get either an aide to help with transitions, or see if he can be paired up with a hallway buddy.



WAautisticguy
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19 Mar 2015, 10:42 pm

In my IEP during middle school was the option of having a study hall class where I could get my homework done and get help on homework assignments. This was after a dreadful 6th grade full of low grades in math...I hated long division and geometry. Science was a big part of that class...there would always be at least 1, sometimes 2 assignments every day in my 7th grade Life Science class. To this day I still have a study hall class.



DW_a_mom
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20 Mar 2015, 5:59 pm

Having our IEP meeting within the first two weeks of school every year helped a TON with getting all the teachers on board. Now that my son is off-IEP, I gather all the teacher emails at Back to School night so I can email them with information, and also make a point of introducing myself.

I agree that real-time on-line communication about assignments is essential. The biggest hurdle for my son was the huge increase in executive function expectations, and for about a year and a half he desperately needed us to manage his assignment due dates and requirements for him. That was an area where the developmental delay could have been devastating, because zeros for missed assignments kill grades fast, and even acing every test can never fix it under common modern grading rubrics.

Between the organizational issues and his dysgraphia, having a study hall period was another essential for my son. The way they did it was to program him into academic support, but with special instructions to the teacher that this was to be used to work on homework, not doing the standard support curriculum. This teacher helped review his binder, proofed his typed papers, and acted as liaison with the other teachers. The period was also used for giving my son extended time on tests. This did cost him his only elective, which was something my son had not initially wanted to give up, but once he got half way through the school year without a study hall, he knew it was an investment he would have to make.

Finally, I have always been fond of the escape clause, ie permission for my child to leave the classroom without having to ask and go to a designated quiet spot when feeling overwhelmed by stress, so that he would not have meltdowns in class.

My son received OT (to learn to type, for the dysgraphia) and speech (metaphors, etc) services during middle school, as well.

Time between classes was a huge issue, as most classes began with "do now" work that had to be turned in for a grade. We developed a folder system for my son that allowed him to pull and return papers by class a lot faster than a binder, and also started him on bungee laces for his sneakers so he could change faster after PE. We couldn't gain any traction on excusing those assignments, although some teachers did allow him to finish them in his study hall. That whole thing is a pet peeve because "do nows" are really a discipline tool more than a learning tool, but ... As for the IEP, since middle school teachers like to tell students exactly how they want their classroom work organized, right down to the size of binder, you will probably need it in writing that your son is allowed to use any system that will work for him, and not just what the teacher thinks should work for all the kids in his or her class.

Anyway, hope this helps.


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21 Mar 2015, 10:01 am

DW_a_mom wrote:
Finally, I have always been fond of the escape clause, ie permission for my child to leave the classroom without having to ask and go to a designated quiet spot when feeling overwhelmed by stress, so that he would not have meltdowns in class.


That is what they did with me too, before anyone knew of AS. Just knowing that I could leave greatly reduced stress. In hindsight a good thing the teachers back then figured it out on their own. There was no designated quiet spot though, since it was a tiny building. When kids are stressed out they are not learning anything so they are wasting their time in the classroom anyway (unless the teachers believe in "compliance" over effectiveness, in other words idiots).



InThisTogether
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22 Mar 2015, 6:05 pm

My son doesn't have an IEP, but he just finished his 3rd year of middle school, so here are some "tips" that may or may not be helpful. Haven't read the other feedback so sorry if this is repeats of what you have already heard.

A very kind girl pointed out to him that girls carry their books up close to their chest, cradling them in both of their arms. Boys carry them down next to their side in their hands.

Regarding bullying in the hallway, find out if the school has cameras set up. Ours does, and they will search the footage for reported bullying. I think knowing this is a huge deterrent for most bullies.

My son has the ability to quietly leave his classroom without permission and report straight to the guidance counselor if he is feeling overwhelmed. Before he had this ability, he would sit in the classroom until he was so overwhelmed that he would have an outburst and storm out of the classroom. This was horribly embarrassing to him and disruptive to the class. Since he has been given the ability to leave without question, he doesn't use it. Just knowing he can escape if he needs to seems to give him enough...don't know exactly what it gives him....but he doesn't feel so overwhelmed anymore.

He does not go back to his locker during the day. He finds it too overwhelming and is an extra step he needs to put into the sequence of what needs to be done. He finds it easier to just go straight from classroom to classroom. He has his books in his classrooms instead of in his locker and he has a full set of books at home. So all he really needs to carry is his binder and I get him one of these: http://www.staples.com/Caseit-D-186-4-i ... oC58nw_wcB it actually has a strap on it, which he finds useful.

Also, he has only had one teacher who has marked him late when he gets to class late. Most of his teachers can see that he is a rule-following kid who has extreme spatial issues. I do know of one kid in his class who gets to leave 3 minutes before the bell.

In 6th and 7th grade, he had a pass to leave his last period (study hall) early. He met with his guidance counselor to work on basic organizational skills. She would also make sure he had his homework written down properly.

He has found an electronic organizer (he uses an app on his kindle) easier to manage than the paper ones they give out in school.

He goes to Learning Center. He mostly uses it to do his homework, but sometimes he does need help with academics. It is also an opportunity for the teacher to look to see what homework he hasn't turned in. Both of my kids have a huge issue with doing their homework and then failing to turn it in. In 7th grade, his Learning Center teacher actually collected all of his homework and distributed it to his teachers. He has been able to get away from this in 8th grade.

Middle school was a huge adjustment for us. I have to say, however, that when I look back to where we were when he entered 6th grade, I am overwhelmed with pride regarding how far he has come. Sure, there is still a "gap" between him and his peers, but he really has adapted nicely overall. Good luck to you and your son.


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Dmarcotte
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22 Mar 2015, 6:39 pm

My daughter always had trouble handing homework in on time so she had it in her IEP that teachers had to give full credit not matter when the work was turned in - this saved her from failing many of her classes.


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Waterfalls
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22 Mar 2015, 7:36 pm

Teachers will be more supportive if he likes school, or the subject, or them, at least a little. If he doesn't and it's possible to help him see they're human beings, that's helpful. Human beings like being treated like they have something to offer.....

I'll just mention since we are all talking homework and lots of good ideas, with the transition to middle school, there is more freedom and the cafeteria can be a huge problem if he doesn't have friends, so I think it's important to think about his social connections. Will he need help navigating the cafeteria? They can offer but don't usually. Informally teachers are great about lunch, though. A lot of special Ed and regular Ed teachers let kids eat with them if the cafeteria is too overwhelming. It's probably bigger, and in elementary school they usually get them seated a bit if kids struggle. Just knowing there are options if it's too much may relieve a lot of stress if needed. I think of eating in the cafeteria as something to sacrifice if it allows a child to better manage her/his day.



InThisTogether
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22 Mar 2015, 8:24 pm

I can't seem to edit my own post...I have no idea why I said he just finished his 3rd year of middle school! He still has a couple of months left :) In my son's middle school, there are multiple lines for various meal options. In 6th grade, my son ate the same thing every day at school so that he didn't have to pick a different line and figure it out. Normally I would not like him to eat a cheeseburger every day :wink: but it was a small price to pay so that he could navigate the cafeteria. In 7th grade he switched between 2 lines, and now this year he actually chooses the line that leads to the food he actually wants, so yes...the cafeteria is another challenge that is different than elementary school. I will say, though, that this is how my son has gathered his wonderfully quirky friends...in the cafeteria. Perhaps it is easier to spot the socially awkward kids in the cafeteria and that is how they found each other.


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YippySkippy
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23 Mar 2015, 11:02 am

Thanks for all the replies; they were helpful.
Slightly off-topic, but as I was sitting in the meeting I think I had a small sensory overload. The fluorescent lights in the classroom we were using seemed to go dim, and it was hard for me to see for a couple minutes. I just pretended nothing was happening, and it cleared up. I just had an eye exam, so it wasn't my eyes. It felt ironic, since I'm supposed to be the "normal" mom.



YippySkippy
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23 Mar 2015, 11:05 am

Sometimes I feel like Vanellope in "Wreck It Ralph". Strolling around, glitching here and there.



Waterfalls
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23 Mar 2015, 11:22 am

Sensory issues are common in the normal people I'm around. I think they're worse when you're stressed or sick. From what I can tell normal people don't label them as anything other than "not liking" the trigger.



DW_a_mom
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24 Mar 2015, 6:08 pm

InThisTogether wrote:
I have to say, however, that when I look back to where we were when he entered 6th grade, I am overwhelmed with pride regarding how far he has come. Sure, there is still a "gap" between him and his peers, but he really has adapted nicely overall.


I felt the same when my son was in eighth grade, an overwhelming sense of pride. He had so many challenges to face at the start of middle school, those years were so intense for him having to deal with issues and work hard, and by mid eighth grade he gotten past most of it and was ready to move forward with minimal support. It was when I really knew things were going to be OK. Not just believed they would be, but knew they would be.

Middle School is tough, and I believe the years are crucial. If kids don't get the support they need, or can't pull it together to learn the key skills they have to, it really hurts them in ways that they may never fully recover from. It is so much to ask of them, so when they do it, how can you not burst with pride? It's funny because my son doesn't think it was a big deal, but its like he puts on rose colored glasses looking back at the things he went through - which, I guess, is better than the opposite.

Anyway, I am so glad to hear your son has met his challenges and is moving forward. It is what we all want for our kids. Even if he never chooses to share your moment, I think you both earned it.


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