Q: My 12-year-old son has Asperger’s syndrome and is starting middle school. I’m worried that he won’t fit in and that he’ll give in to peers, which I’ve read is a risk for kids with Asperger’s.
A: There’s a lot that you can do to help pave the way for a smooth transition. Meet with staff at the new school: Share your concerns and ask if they can keep an eye out for any potential problems. If your son is comfortable at school and with school staff, he will be less likely to be misled or negatively influenced by peers.
It will be important for your son to have a go-to person (teacher or school counsellor), someone he can touch base with if he needs to, so establish this ahead of time. Your son can then meet this person and have a tour of the school before the school year starts. Find out about clubs or after-school activities that your son might be interested in.
Finally, focus on helping your son learn social skills he may need in middle school (how to greet peers, use typical preteen language, ignore teasing), and teach him to be aware of potentially risky situations. Review these things with your son and create a personalized journal that your son can refer to for strategies.
Keep in close contact with the school and raise any concerns you have immediately. Once your son starts school, ask him frequently to tell you about his day. Be specific and establish this as a routine you can both depend on.