MSG, aka my younger son with autism, is in the fifth grade this year. This is, for him, the end of Elementary Education. He’s in a “Behavioral Learning” self-contained classroom. This means that he is primarily in a class with other students much like him. There are about six students, the teacher, and two aides for the class. I also think there are two additional aides who are there for two other students exclusively because some students require the extra support.
This is a rather rarefied environment.
However, the students also get to mingle with the other fifth graders on occasion and, this year, the children in my son’s class are on the same schedule as the more normative children in fifth grade. This is for the purposes of inclusion. Because, next year, my son and his classmates will be in middle school.
This is a huge transition for any student, not just those on the Autism Spectrum. But for children on the spectrum? It can be overwhelming. Much of what happens during fifth grade, then, is to subtly (and not so subtly) prep them for this huge transition. The students go from their homeroom class to specials, and they are included with the other classes as often as possible.
There is even talk, once again, of slowly integrating the different students in with the more normal classes. A bit at a time, maybe. Just to get them used to the idea.
I’m not gonna lie; I hated junior high. Middle school. Seventh and eighth grade. The kids start it in sixth grade now (I loved sixth grade) but it’s still the same. The social workers at my son’s school know the ups and downs and already I have spoken with some of them one on one (at their instigation) as to how to begin prepping for this big transition.
It’s kinda cool. Kinda intimidating. And I’m doing my best to think positive thoughts on the subject because MSG’s experience will be vastly different from my own. I don’t want to give him any negative vibes on middle school. It’ll be hard enough for him to go without that.
So here’s to preparing for one of the biggest shifts in the life of a public school student. I’m so pleased my son’s school is thinking ahead on this issue for the kids. I’m pleased that they understand their needs. Here’s hoping I’ll do my part with equal attention to detail.