Dear ADDitude: How Can We Set the Stage for Middle School?
“My son is entering middle school in the Fall. For the first time, he’ll have multiple teachers and lots of transitions during the day. How can I best prepare him for this over the summer?”
First of all, walk your child through the environment. Go over to the middle school and see what it looks like. Try to visit again in the weeks before school when the teachers are back and you can get in to see where his classes and locker are located. Parents, you may also want to schedule meetings with your child’s teachers in the weeks before school starts to set the stage for cooperation.
Second, use the summer months as an opportunity to tackle some parent-child organizing projects. Create a clean slate by going through their desk drawers, closet, and notebooks, reviewing the previous school year’s work and taking digital pictures of anything they want to save and recycling the rest. Then create a new organization system for the year ahead.
Ask your child, “What would you like for a homework area that you think would be cool and motivating and a good place to work?” Or, “Is there anything different in your room that you would like to see that would help you be better organized and prepared for next school year?” Maybe this involves some new shelving or furniture – a good opportunity to work collaboratively on solutions before the school year begins.
– Answered by Sandra Rief, M.A.
The higher grades are brutal for kids with poor executive functioning skills, which is most with ADHD. You need to get the school on board with his needs so that he can be less stressed and succeed.
Just this morning I sent an email to my son’s special ed teacher and asked him to go through my son’s binder with him. The folder of papers to turn in is only growing, so there’s a lot that he hasn’t turned in. Just about every water bottle we own is in his gym locker too. I’ve learned that we still need to work toward some organization skills, but I no longer expect normalcy, and definitely not perfection.
Posted by Penny
ADDitude community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism
A Reader Answers
This past year has been my 11-year-old granddaughter’s first in middle school.
It helped to visit the school in the spring of her 5th grade year and again a couple of days before school started. She got to walk around, find out where her classes were, meet a few teachers, and most importantly face the fear of having a locker (learning the combo). From the beginning, she immersed herself in a couple of clubs and intramural sports, which helped a lot.
Prior to school starting, I called the counselor to talk about her teachers for the year. Rather than requesting a teacher, I asked that she be placed with a language arts teacher who would help her the most with her challenges in writing and spelling. I feel that my request was honored.
I also set up a plan with the lunchroom to pay ahead for her lunches and have $ automatically put in her account when the balance was low. This sounds pretty minimal, but she never remembers to tell me her funds are low and I wanted to lessen as many stresses as I could for her.
Her school has an online portal to keep an eye on homework and grades. That helps a lot. She is required to write her assignments in a daily agenda, but the portal allows us to double check. We have her clean out her binder weekly, which gets jammed with everything and then she can’t find a thing. I hate to think what her locker looks like, but I stay out of that one…
What has helped the most is that her best friend is in the same core. That has been a huge unexpected help. The year has been pretty good, with a couple of manageable bumps in the road. There are still several weeks to go and we are taking things as they come. I didn’t think she was ready at all, but they really can rise to the challenges better than we think!
Onward to the 7th grade which understand is a bit dicey for girls…
– Posted by forroz
A Reader Answers
I have realized that life with an ADHDer is a journey, a continual process. What worked before may not work now and what didn’t work before, now does! As for middle school, here is what works for us…
Communication with the teachers.
We have a conference with our daughter’s teachers in the first couple weeks of school to meet them, get to know each other, give them a heads up on what they can expect and let them know what has worked in the past, and what definitely didn’t work. This starts the year out on a positive note, knowing that we are all in this together, and there is open communication.
A planner is a MUST!
If the school doesn’t provide one, you can choose from many different styles at a Staples, Office Max, Target, Walmart etc. My daughter found that the school’s was cute, but the style didn’t work for her – there was little room to write assignments because of the tidbits of info and little facts cluttering the pages. It was a distraction for her.
Have the teachers check that he has written down the assignments (and due dates if necessary) and initial it before your son leaves the class.
When the assignments are done AND back in the backpack, then you initial the planner.
Check the teachers’ website daily.
Many teachers post the assignments on their web page on the school website which is a God-send! Bookmark it! I check it against what my daughter has written down in her planner so we don’t miss anything and are aware of/can plan for any thing coming up.
Organization is a must with so many different teachers.
There are different ways to keep papers organized and we tried several before we found one that worked for her.
1. 1 big zippered binder with a diff colored folder for each diff class. Everything (notes, handouts, packets) goes in this binder.
2. 1 binder for each separate class, each a diff color.
3. same as above with the addition of 1 “homework” folder or binder. Only the homework binder comes home, not each classes binder. This worked for my daughter so her backpack wasn’t crammed full. We had a HMWK TO DO pocket file and a HMWK DONE pocket file. She also kept her planner, thumb drive, pen and pencil holder, loose leaf paper, a ruler and a calculator in this binder.
A homework schedule/routine
We agreed on and printed out an after school routine and schedule then posted it at her desk so she could keep on track with her time.
Exposure before hand
For anxiety reasons, we went to school a week or two ahead of time to run through her schedule, find the classrooms, find the locker, try out the combination, etc. We were lucky enough to even meet a few teachers and she got to talk to them one on one on a casual level. That was extremely helpful in alleviating some anxiety.
Hope that helps!
– Posted by dolanjamm
A Reader Answers
I can recommend two great books:
Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning by Joyce Cooper-Kahn by Laurie Dietzel
– Posted by staypositive
A Reader Answers
It sounds overwhelming, however there is light at the end of the tunnel. One of my son’s teachers told me that kids with ADHD sometimes do better in middle school because of the forced change every hour. She was right. He did a lot better. However, the distraction of girls was and still is an issue. He seems to do very well in the beginning of the year where there is lots of structure, but once a routine sets in he tends to slack.
One huge thing that should help your child is a planner. The hardest part for a parent is having to watch your kid fail. This is especially challenging for us parents that have had to fight so hard for our children. I felt the same way with all of the exact anxiety, and I promise it will be better than elemantary school.
– Posted by GotADD