Friday, September 4, 2015

Autism and Middle School

Tommy started eighth grade.

He's been doing okay in middle school. I worried a lot when he started.

He doesn't participate in any sports or groups. He's not interested.

Because, you know, other people.

And he was horrified to learn that cross country started practice at 630 AM.

He does struggle when his teachers raise their voices. Sometimes the students in the class do not listen. So the teachers get angry. This makes Tommy upset because he assumes he's also being shouted at. So he sometimes cries. He tries hard not to, because he is in middle school, but sometimes he can't help it.

Teachers tell me they always tell Tommy that it isn't him. They apologize for upsetting him. But still, Tommy doesn't like it. He gets extremely uncomfortable when his fellow students are not following the rules. He tells me he can't believe how some of them behave.

He's still dealing with this in eighth grade. He tells me he's working hard to take deep breaths if a teacher has to get angry. This is what he does to help prevent a meltdown. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

Another thing he's dealing with this year is the fact that he has to use a locker.

In the past, students could bring string backpacks to class. But this year it is not allowed. Lockers have to be used.

Tommy struggles with his locker. He has poor fine motor skills. He can't twist the lock as easily as other kids his age. His fingers shake a bit, so he'll go past the number he needs.

This can cause a meltdown. He does not like to be late. He panics.

Teachers are aware of the fact that he has autism so they've been helping him. I'm grateful for this. If Tommy continues to struggle, we can get special permission for him to bring his string backpack to class. But he doesn't like to be different from his peers. He is already fully aware how different he is. He's worried other kids will say, "Why does he get to bring his backpack in?" So he's trying to figure out his locker.

To help with how many times he has to go to his locker, I bought him a giant binder. This means he doesn't have to go to his locker after each class.

All and all, he's doing okay. I know it can't be easy to go to school where it's noisy, and where it's hard to read what people REALLY mean...for instance, Tommy did not understand why people called each other dogs.

"Some kids say, 'What's up, dog?'" Tommy informed me with a wrinkled nose.

I showed him Randy Jackson clips. I think he understands now.

He also didn't understand why kids talk about being "gangsta" and why they always call everyone "homies."

"Kids are weird," I said. "But you're my homie."

I think Tommy will do okay this year.

And then next year? High school.


(Tommy also did a video on having autism and being in middle school..)


  1. What about a different type of lock? One of the ones that clicks into a row perhaps? I bet the school would allow that! Or even one that needs a key?

    Oh, but maybe they are already built into the lockers? Then I guess my suggestions won't work :)

    1. The lock is already built into the locker. Otherwise I thought the same thing you did!

  2. as someone who has autism spectrum disorder, many of these stories sound familiar. i used to have someone jam my lock on my locker with paper so i could open it. it wouldn't lock but that was fine with me!

  3. Sounds like he is really doing a great job so far!
    As an aside, I had no idea people still used the words dawg and homies. It makes me think of Clueless. Rolling with the homiesssssssss.

  4. I agree with the above poster.... jamming the lock. I did it way back in the day because I didn't have time, but it would definitely help him.

    I'm surprised that they don't have like a lock override or something. You know where you can use a different lock and not the one built in. There are so many children with different issues, that a normal lock wouldn't be a good idea.

    I love his video! I love how he helps the others coming right behind him!

    Good Luck with HS!

  5. Aww! He's totally your homie. And the video is awesome but his deep voice surprised me! He's really growing up!
    Deep breaths sometimes work for me too, and sometimes not. Mostly they do.

  6. My daughter has trouble with her locker too. Last year the issue was that there was always some big kid standing in front of her locker and she was afraid to ask him to move. It turns out he was a nice kid and she didn't have anything to be afraid of, but it still stressed her out. This year my little shorty got a locker on the top row, but we requested they change it and I think it turned out ok.

  7. I am glad he is doing great so far, I hope it continues.

  8. It sounds like Tommy has a great system in place to help him succeed. :-) His video is great!

  9. I don't think Aven would be able to do a combo lock either. Fine motor skills are a problem with him as well. Unless he's playing video games that is, lol. I'm glad that you provided Tommy with good coping skills and yes, he is definitely your homie.

  10. I don't think Aven would be able to do a combo lock either. Fine motor skills are a problem with him as well. Unless he's playing video games that is, lol. I'm glad that you provided Tommy with good coping skills and yes, he is definitely your homie.

  11. You've got a handsome boy ~ and what an awesome attitude. I love how he wants to figure it out himself despite the challenge and rising panic. What a strong little man. Middle school sucked big time for me. High school is when I figured it all out and stopped caring so much about what my classmates thought of me. I think he'll get in his groove pretty quickly - sounds like he has an incredible soul.

  12. Mine is in 2nd this year and has an awesome understanding teacher and classmates. I try not to worry about middle school and (gulp) high school too much, but I'm a mom. Of course I think about when he leaves the nice little cocoon of elementary school.

    Your son sounds like he is adjusting quite well. And I agree with him about how kids his age behave and talk, ha ha!


  13. What a strong, resilient, brilliant young man you have, you must be so, so proud of him. :-)
    I only hope his high school years aren't too hard on him.

  14. I think it's hard for these kids. If a kid has Downs, there are visual cues and people know to adjust their expectations appropriately. But with these ADHD and aspie kids people can't tell right away. My son had a very hard time in elementary and middle, but kind of figured it out by High School and now that he's a Senior, he doesn't really have any friends, but he doesn't care about what people think anymore. One thing they did for the middle school orientation was to bring a big basket of locks with the combos on little tags. They handed them around to all the kids to practice with because they said lockers were a big anxiety for the incoming middle schoolers. #SITSSharefest

  15. Cross country at 630 AM would make me uninterested, too. Why so early?!!!

  16. What an amazing son! It's not easy being different but he seems to be handling it with such grace and strength!

  17. You are such an awesome mom to Tommy. My nephew has autism, and I've told my sister about your blog before. She definitely needs to read this post. Sounds like your son will have a very successful year. And honestly, high school is better than middle school these days.

  18. I worried about Emmy and her dyslexia and middle school but so far it's been ok. She had struggled with using a locker too. She swears the lock gets stuck.


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