Preparing for Middle School

Your child’s first school chapter is coming to a close, and the next one, middle school, is on the horizon. You may feel similar to when you prepared to send your child to kindergarten for the first time. It is an emotional transition! Thankfully, it’s a transition you and your child can prepare for ahead of time. 

Before the end of elementary school, you and your child will have a transition meeting to put an educational plan in place to help your child succeed from day one of middle school. Here’s what you can expect when preparing for middle school and the official transition meeting. 

IEP Re-Evaluation 

Your child may need an IEP re-evaluation so that the IEP team can develop an appropriate individualized education in middle school. This re-evaluation will help determine the appropriate level of support and accommodations based on their visual abilities. A re-evaluation will be particularly important if your child’s vision has changed since the last evaluation. 

Assessments that may need evaluation or re-evaluation:  

  • Functional Vision Assessment  
  • Learning Media Assessment  
  • Orientation and Mobility Assessment  
  • Considerations for Expanded Core Curriculum Skills  
  • Any other services with support staff such as PT, ST, or OT. 

IEP Meeting 

This meeting will include parents, elementary and middle school teachers, administrators, and relevant specialists. The team will review the current IEP and discuss your child’s progress and any additional concerns. The team will collaborate to develop a new IEP tailored to the challenges and opportunities in the middle school environment.    

The IEP will outline specific goals, services, and accommodations to support your child’s learning and development.  

Anticipating and Preparing for Middle School Challenges 

Increased Complexity of the School Building 

Middle schools are often larger and more complex in layout compared to elementary schools. Navigating multiple floors, hallways, and classrooms can be challenging. An orientation and mobility instructor may be essential to help your child become familiar with and comfortable navigating the new environment independently.   

School Visits and Orientation 

Your child needs to visit the new middle school before starting the year. They can familiarize themselves with the layout of the school, the classrooms, and other important areas. They may also meet their new teachers, principals, and other support staff. Additionally, they can explore the resources and supports available to them.  

Changing Classrooms and Teachers 

In middle school, students typically have different teachers for various subjects, and they move between classrooms throughout the day. When changing classes, students can become disoriented in busy, noisy hallways. Your child may need extra time or other support during these transition periods.   

Heavier Academic Demands 

The middle school curriculum is more academically demanding than elementary school. Students encounter new subjects and additional homework assignments. This shift requires effective strategies to access and manage academic materials. 

Social Interactions 

Middle school introduces a more extensive and diverse peer group. Social dynamics can be challenging, especially when your child misses nonverbal cues and body language. It is important to consider Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) skills, such as social interaction skills, when developing the IEP. Encourage the development of social skills and provide opportunities for social interaction and integration.   

Cell phones and social media 

Navigating the digital social scene is new territory. Your family must decide whether or not your child is ready for a cell phone. If your child is, you will decide which phone to obtain and address accessibility and safety concerns.  

Social media is another space your child may be interested in as their peers are engaging on these platforms. Be sure to understand the risks and how to support your child best using these platforms.   

Emotional Support 

Transitioning to a new school can be emotionally overwhelming for any child. Working with your child’s team to have emotional support systems, such as counseling or support systems, can help them through the transition process.   

Preparing for Personal Development 

Increased Independence 

Middle school fosters greater independence in students. With appropriate support, your child can learn to manage their schedule, navigate the school, manage assignments, develop time management skills, and advocate for their needs more effectively.  

Diverse Educational Resources 

Middle school often has a broader range of educational resources, such as more expansive libraries, computer labs, science labs, and specialized equipment. Students can also benefit from teachers who are more passionate about their teaching subject.    

Peer Support and Understanding 

You can help create a supportive environment for students who are blind or low vision by encouraging opportunities for peer support to increase awareness of empathy among peers. You can also encourage disability awareness programs to promote a positive and inclusive school culture.   

Extracurricular Activities 

Middle schools offer various extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, and art programs. You can collaborate with IEP team members to ensure the activities are inclusive and accessible. 

Transition Programs 

Starting at age 14, your child will begin participating in their transition IEP meetings. Before 14, some middle schools offer transition programs specifically designed to support students moving from elementary to middle school. These programs can ease the transition process for students who are blind or low vision by providing orientation, social activities, and targeted support.   

Advanced Training in the Expanded Core Curriculum 

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Training 

O&M lessons are crucial for your child to develop independent navigation skills. During this process, your O&M Instructor will work with your child to support navigating the school independently. Lessons may be specific cane skills your child is working on, mapping skills, using landmarks, and other supports to help your child in the new school.  

Assistive Technology 

Depending on your child’s needs, the school may introduce or modify their previously used assistive technology. With the increase in technology use, ensure your child has the most up-to-date skills to help them access their education. Technology may include screen readers, magnification software, low-tech devices, and other tools to help access educational materials.   

Social Skills and Self-Advocacy 

Middle school can be socially challenging; preparing your child for new social situations is essential. Encourage them to develop self-advocacy skills, such as expressing their needs and seeking assistance when required. Your child may soon experience different relationships and interests beyond friendships. They may encounter different social circles and social events. Help them prepare for new situations by talking about them and letting them know how to engage with others appropriately. 

Communication with Teachers 

Maintain open lines of communication with your child’s teacher and school staff. Regularly discuss your child’s progress, address concerns, and ensure that the IEP is being implemented as agreed upon. It is also important for your child to communicate with teachers to share their struggles or concerns in class. Your child can develop a process to share their concerns with their teachers; they will develop self-advocacy skills and practice independence.   

Preparing for the Transition Meeting 

Now that you have reviewed many of the considerations of middle school, you can better prepare for the transition meeting. In preparation for the official meeting, gather your child’s most recent records and come with questions. You will feel more confident and prepared to have informed discussions.   

Questions and Considerations 

The middle school environment:   

  • What is the layout of the middle school, and how will my child navigate between classrooms and other areas?  
  • Due to their vision, are there any specific challenges my child might face in the school building? If the TVI or O&M determines challenges, how will these be addressed?  
  • How are lockers assigned, and is there a plan to ensure my child can access their locker independently? Are there other locker options if they cannot use traditional combination locks?  

Support services and staff:  

  • What specialized support services are available for students who are blind or low vision in middle school?  
  • Who will be the primary point of contact for my child’s educational needs and progress?  
  • Are there teachers or staff members with experience working with students who are blind or low vision?  

Curriculum and accommodations:   

  • How will the middle school accommodate my child in different subjects?  
  • What assistive technology or adaptive materials will be available to support my child’s learning?  
  • How will my child safely transport the materials and technology from one class to another?  
  • How will the school ensure all educational materials are accessible to my child?  

Orientation and mobility instruction:  

  • Will there be orientation and mobility training for my child to learn to navigate the new school environment safely and independently before school starts?  
  • Should the orientation and mobility instructor address potential obstacles or challenges in the school building? If so, how? 

Social and extracurricular activities:   

  • How will the school promote social inclusion and encourage positive peer interactions for my child?  
  • Are there inclusive extracurricular activities or clubs that my child can join?  
  • What steps can we take to ensure my child can participate in sports and physical education classes?  
  • Are there ways to collaborate or connect with other athletes who are blind to support adapting sports for my child?  


  • How will my child commute to and from school? What supports can be considered for getting from the bus/car to the door if needed?  
  • What provisions are in place to ensure the safety and accessibility of transportation for my child?  

What to Bring to the Transition Meeting: 

  • Current Individualized Education Plan (IEP): The current IEP will be a starting point for developing the new IEP. It can also be where you have written notes or concerns to discuss as you progress through the meeting. 
  • Educational assessments and reports: Bring any recent educational assessment or report provided by your TVI, a low vision evaluation, or any other educational report you would like to share. Reports may include recently administered district or state tests. 
  • Medical information: Provide any new medical diagnosis, change in medication, letters or reports from eye care specialists or ophthalmologists, information on any surgeries, or any change in their medical information.  
  • Orientation and mobility (O&M) reports: Bring any reports or notes from recent sessions if your child has received orientation and mobility instruction. Bring any concerns with the school layout or community lessons to discuss. Ask questions about how staff and teachers will be educated about your child’s cane or mobility device and how to support their needs appropriately.   
  • Assistive technology reports: If your child is using assistive technology devices, bring in any report from an assistive technology assessment, TVI reports, or notes/concerns you observe with your child using their assistive technology at home.   
  • Samples of accommodations and modifications: If specific classroom accommodations or modifications have been effective for your child, provide examples and/or samples.  
  • Parent input: Prepare your thoughts or observations about your child’s strengths and concerns. Consider social settings, technology, self-advocacy, access to education, hobbies, interests, and any patterns you observe in behavior/emotions. Your child is likely most comfortable at home, and you may see behaviors at home or in the community that the school does not observe.  
  • Questions and concerns from your child: List your child’s questions or concerns regarding this transition. Address their questions and concerns at the meeting.  

After the school year begins, closely monitor your child’s progress in their new environment. Assess whether the accommodations and services provided are effective and if any adjustments are necessary.  Promptly communicate and resolve any issues with the educational team rather than waiting until the next IEP meeting.