Those of us with younger children have spent the past several years worrying about getting them through elementary school, but there comes a time when we have to think about the next phase…..Middle School! I’m sure I’m not the only parent who is concerned about whether my child is adequately prepared to handle the Middle School environment. As we all remember from our own experience, it’s a whole new world! The campus is larger, the class sizes are bigger and teachers expect students to be able to be responsible for their homework assignments and work independently without constant adult supervision. However, for the student who has organization, planning, or off task behavior problems, they might have difficulty functioning in their new environment. For those parents who have children still in elementary school and are already struggling in these areas, it’s a good idea to add Pre-Vocational Goals to their IEP’s. The purpose of Pre-Vocational Goals is to help train children in specific measurable skill building tasks. For some, the ability to organize, plan or stay on task in class does not come naturally to them. Pre-Vocational Goals can help a student learn how to master these skills so that when they enter middle school, they will be prepared to deal with an environment that no longer holds their hand and tells them what to do every minute in class.
For example, if your child already has difficulty completing their classwork without continuous adult supervision, a baseline goal to begin with could be “Mary, when given classroom/homework will complete the work with at least 60% completion with minimum adult prompting on a daily basis as measured by Teacher charted data.” The percentage can increase as the year progresses so that by the next yearly IEP, your child might be able to complete 80% with minimum adult prompting. With regards to organization and planning skills, a baseline goal could be “Mary will bring her materials to school and will organize her belongings by placing them in their designated areas 60% of the time daily as measured by Teacher charted data.” Hopefully by the yearly IEP, Mary will be doing this on her own 90% of the time without adult prompting. Another important skill students need to master by the time they reach middle school is the ability to write down their homework assignments from each class in their notebook. This skill is very important because during elementary school, students are used to receiving weekly handouts from their teacher regarding homework, tests, etc…..once they go to middle school, they will be expected to write down all the information their teacher wrote on the blackboard on their own. It will be their responsibility to have whatever information the teacher has provided and execute it in a timely manner. For my son, our school district handed out a yearly planner to the 5th graders. The goal is to have all the students learn how to write down their daily assignments from each class, as a way to prepare them for middle school next year. If your school doesn’t provide one, you can ask your teacher to work with your child on this skill using a notebook you supply from home. My son still forgets to write things down in his planner because he says “it’s all in my head, I don’t need to write it down!” I explained to him that when he’s in middle school, he’ll have a different class for each subject, so it will be much harder to keep track of what homework is due in each class. As a Special Education Advocate, I attend many IEP’s at middle schools where the student is struggling in organization and planning skills, as a result, they miss turning in assignments because they forget to write the teacher’s daily assignments down in their notebook.
These are just few examples of possible Pre-Vocational goals you and the IEP team can implement. The goal is to help your child have an easy transition into middle school. We all know from personal experience how difficult it’s going to be, so why not help your child strengthen the areas they already struggle in……hopefully it will alleviate some of the anxiety in the wonderful world we call “Middle School!”