What they say is definitely true — time flies when you have kids. I remember that the first five years of Abbi’s life seemed like such a long time, up until she was ready to head off to kindergarten. And then I blinked — and now she’s going into seventh grade and starting middle school. With school beginning in a few weeks, we’re already in high gear to get everything prepared. For all three of my girls, this means making sure they’ve got school clothes, shoes, notebooks, pencils, etc. But for Abbi, there are additional challenges to consider as well.
Between second and third grades, Abbi was diagnosed with Asperger’s, ADHD and generalized anxiety, not otherwise specified. She’s done well so far, but at the end of this past school year her sixth grade teacher came to me with concerns about middle school — things I’ve been worrying about as well.
Middle school is a lot different from elementary school in so many ways, especially since there’s no “home” classroom with one teacher who’s looking out for you. Abbi will need to keep herself organized and all of her stuff together as she moves from one class to another throughout the school day.
This is a child who lost so many pencils last year that her classmates stopped lending them to her and her teacher finally asked me to provide pencils for the classroom to replace ones he’d given her. Apparently she’d also routinely have to come back to the classroom after switching classes to grab a pencil, book or something else she’d forgotten to take with her. Add in forgetting to give me fliers or notes that were sent home with her, and I’ve learned to make sure to ask, so she doesn’t miss out on field trips or other activities.
The biggest thing I learned while Abbi was in elementary school is that having regular, open communication with her teacher is key to her educational success. Her fifth grade teacher sent out an email every afternoon that summarized what they did that day, any important notes that went home and what was coming up in the next few days. Although this was a lot of work on the teacher’s part, I appreciated the information and missed being as “plugged-in” to what was going on in sixth grade.
So along with the usual back-to-school shopping, we are working to come up with strategies to help Abbi stay organized and attentive in seventh grade so that she’ll be successful in middle school — and beyond. Setting up lines of communication with her teachers right away is something we’ll be doing, as well as working with her at home to make sure she’s keeping her things together. Our online parent portal is a huge help too, because now we can see immediately if she has a late or missing assignment.
With Abbi, the techniques that tend to work the best are ones that incentivize. She also does well with anything that can be quantified; she’s a black-and-white, concrete thinker, so the more we can spell things out and have clear guidelines, the better. One idea I tried last spring was to give her a set of ten pencils and tell her that if she could keep track of them and end the year with all ten original pencils, I’d give her a ten dollar Google Play card. She didn’t keep all ten, but on the last day of school she still had eight of the original pencils, which was a huge improvement. Just having the incentive to pay attention and keep track of them made a difference. We gave her five dollars in Google Play credit since she did so well, even if she didn’t make the original goal.
Along with incentives, we’re making sure she’s got the best tools to help. I’m working through ideas on how to give her reminders during the day to stop and check to see if she’s got everything she needs with her.
Yup, middle school. She’s incredibly excited, and I am for her as well. She really has matured so much in the past couple of years. I just hope that seventh grade is everything she wants it to be, especially an opportunity to meet other kids and make new friends. To find her groove, and show everyone that she’s the smart, funny, beautiful, amazing person we know her to be, not just the kid who is always losing/forgetting her stuff and begging to borrow pencils.
Do you have a middle or high schooler with ADHD? What has worked for your child? I’d love to hear your tips!