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Back to School: 5 Tips for a Successful Transition from Middle to High School

The thought of your child starting high school can be frightening, especially if your child has anxiety, ADHD, Autism, or other special needs. As a school psychologist, I have had the opportunity to work with many students to help them experience a smooth transition. Here are a few tips that many parents and educators have found beneficial.

  1. Communicate! Parents have found it helpful to send an email to teachers at the beginning of the school year to let them know about their child’s special needs or necessary accommodations. If your child has an IEP, this information will be communicated with all your child’s teachers through his or her special education teacher or case manager. However, it’s nice to have a little narrative and overview from the parent’s perspective. If your child does not have an IEP but has some concerns that you would like to let your teachers know about, it can be a good idea to let them know. A note of caution, though: remember that your child is now a high schooler and needs to be developing self-advocacy skills. Depending on your child and his or her needs, it might be a good idea to talk to your child first about what they want communicated to the teachers. You might find that your child is more comfortable handling it on their own if the need arises. This is a good thing! Also, remind them that there are adults at school to help them such as their school counselor, school psychologist, or a school social worker.
  2. Routine and structure! It might sound silly, but in the next few weeks it will be a good idea to start re-establishing sleep schedules. Students at this age need a lot of sleep and they have probably gotten used to late nights and sleeping in over the summer. Heading back to school can be treacherous if this is the case unless they get back in the swing of it.
  3. Homework time–when school starts, it will be important to establish a time in the evening each night that is set aside for homework. Your student will probably need 2 hours of uninterrupted time devoted only to homework. As a parent, it is so important to establish this time and enforce it. More on this in a later blog this month.
  4. Organization! If your child does not currently have an organization system, help him or her establish one. Students with Autism and ADHD usually need a lot of support with this. This could be as easy as having a pocket folder for each class. One side for assignments “to do” and one side for assignments “to turn in”. You might find that a different system might emerge based on teachers’ requirements for class notes, assignments, etc. but it is helpful to at least start with some type of system.
  5. Breathe! I know firsthand how stressful it can be when your child enters high school. What I discovered was that I was not alone–every parent I talked to felt the same way. It’s natural and it’s okay to feel that way!  It helps to talk to other parents and if you feel you need more support–especially if your child has unique needs–talk to your child’s counselor, psychologist, school social worker, case manager, or principal. Feel fee to ask questions–we’re used to it and we welcome it!

I hope you find these few tips helpful and I hope your child has a smooth transition to high school! If you have further questions or concerns about your child transitioning to high school, please feel free to ask!

Thanks for reading!

~Rebecca

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