Maybe even more so for the parents than the child.
We’ve been here already, with my oldest. And middle school is strange. Though he’s doing well there and my fears were
all mostly for nothing.
But we’re getting ready for Middle school for my middle son.
And the anxiety is back, only worse.
My 5th grader is a smart kiddo, but he’s my “alphabet soup” kid, with a host of labels that mean that certain things are more challenging for him than for other kids in his grade. Over the years, he’s made so much progress and is in the regular classroom the majority of the time, only getting pulled out a few times each grading period to work on writing. He’s able to do the same work as his classmates, with the only modifications being shortened writing assignments or alternate assignments like an oral or video report instead of a lengthy essay if knowledge/comprehension is being assessed as opposed to writing skills.
He picks up anything new in math with ease and has a memory for facts that astounds me. He’s sweet and has a great sense of humor.
But we’ve had this comfort zone at the elementary school. He’s been there since kindergarten. People know him there. They love him and have high expectations for him, while having patience with him.
They know all about his labels, but know that he can still perform at or even above grade level. They haven’t let those official diagnoses affect their expectatations of him. They have seen what he’s capable of and let that guide them instead.
They get that he’s a little bit quirky but laugh along with his puns instead of laughing at him or getting annoyed by him. They see his sweet heart. They know he can struggle a little socially and they help him there where they can.
I’ve lost track of the number of times one of his teachers has stopped me in the halls to share something positive about him. The progess he’d made on a writing assignment or how far he got in a class spelling bee. How easily he understood the new math lesson, how creative his project idea was, or what funny joke he told.
Of course, teachers have to follow an IEP for a child. But we’ve been lucky that his teachers have done so willingly and easily, without any sort of grumbling or pushing back (something that unfortunately can happen). Not only that, but they’ve given him other assistance that isn’t explicitly mandated by the IEP. One of his teachers this year told me that she noticed how frustrated he gets copying the notes into his math notebook, that it affects his work, and that his handwriting often quickly deteriorates into something that she (and he) cannot read anyway, so she was going to give him a copy of the notes instead. This is something we then added to his IEP for next year, that he gets copies of notes.
He’s going from this wonderfully supportive environment to the unknown.
Where he’s unknown.
Where he might be judged based on all the paperwork in his file instead of his actual ability.
Where the slight modifications in assignments he has might be viewed as an annoying inconvenience.
I don’t know how much patience or understanding they’ll have with him, as an unknown student.
I worry about how he’ll adjust to a new environment.
If he’ll be accepted, if he’ll find his place.
There isn’t anything worrisome about his new school or his new teachers that causes this worry. No horror stories gossiped about by other parents. Nothing we’ve gone through with my oldest at that school that I can point to and explain where this concern is coming from.
It’s just that it will all be new. The school, the teachers, most of his classmates.
If your child is transitioning to middle school next year, too, that newness might be worrying you as well. I recognize that this is not a unique worry for special needs parents.
As a mom, I worry about all of my kids, whether it’s the transition to middle school or something else entirely. But those worries can be greater or just different when it comes to my child with special needs. And right now, all the changes that are coming feel huge and scary, magnified compared to sending my oldest off to middle school.
I’m holding out hope that this will all work out just like it did for his older brother, that my worries will be for nothing. But that doesn’t stop my concern now.