The Denver Autism Wheel

The times are a-changing: middle school research

Posted on: January 27, 2012

So we’re getting ready to make the transition to middle school next fall. If you’re reading outside our immediate South Metro Denver area, elementary school is K-5 here, middle school is 6-8 and high school 9-12. So there’s a big shift on the way next year, and I started figuring out where we were going early, so we were able to throw the dart with confidence in January, after Winter Break. Here’s what I looked at for middle school.

I wanted a school that was big on integrated classrooms. The school we chose has a wide mix of typicals and SpEds in the classroom. If a student needs para support, they fade the adult as much as possible because they get it that “it’s not cool for a kid to hang out with a grown-up all day.” They try to mainstream kids as much as possible, so you don’t end up with a room full of SpEd and a room full of typical. I prefer it that way for several reasons: I don’t want the SpEd kids to stick out (more than they would ordinarily) because the typical kids don’t see them much during the day, and I don’t want him to lose contact with the typical kids who will be going to school with him from his elementary school.

I wanted a place that would help him shine at what he likes. There’s only so much any kid can stand not being remarkable. Everybody is awesome at something. Chris happens to be good at building stuff, and the middle school we picked has both wood and metal shop along with computer-aided drafting and animation. Cool.

I also wanted to pick a school Luke could move into. We ended up going with our neighborhood middle school, so Luke will have classmates there as well.

And we wanted to keep the great relationship we’ve been building with the District. So I spent some time talking to principals and SpEd staff, visiting the schools and taking a tour (far more tailored information than the “prospective parent night” session, and the staff are very nice and willing to walk around campus and talk up their schools).

So, it will be a big transition. But we’re starting off right, I think, with a lot of communication, a lot of advice, a lot of listening. We’ll start bringing Chris to these meetings soon, so he can start getting a handle on lockers and passing periods and homeroom and whatnot. But it’s a start.

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