Transitioning to Middle School


KK_1_headshot_2Today’s post is written by Krystyann Krywko. Krystyann Krywko is a hearing loss educator and writer who provides resources and support for families who are raising children who are deaf or hard of hearing. You can check out more of her work at; or click here to receive a copy of her free mini eBook, 5 Emotional Sticking Points of Parenting a Child with Hearing Loss.

Transitioning to middle school can be tough.

The reality is that middle school arrives at a time when your child is going through rapid physical, social, emotional and cognitive changes. For many children it means they are leaving their cozy elementary school and heading to a larger middle school that is often comprised of two or more elementary schools coming together. Homework and academic demands increase; and extra-curricular activities also become more serious as club/travel teams and school sports begin to fill the picture. Kids become more self-aware and self-conscious that everyone is looking at them and they just want to fit in. Middle school is also, a time when parents begin to let go a little bit and allow their child to have some more independence (Krywko, 2015).

Jackson and Davis (2000) found that middle school is a period of enormous opportunity for intellectual and emotional growth, yet students are also vulnerable and at risk.

So with all these changes that are taking place how can you help your newly minted middle-schooler who is deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) navigate this transition?

Building Blocks

In my conversations with parents and professionals, some of the best advice that I received was from Suzanne Raschke, teacher consultant for deaf and hard of hearing students in Midland County, Michigan.

“I generally prepare my students long before they are ready for the transition to middle school,” says Raschke, “I tend to focus on three areas – self-knowledge, self-advocacy, and post-school vision. I find that these three areas work together as building blocks and really provide my students with the foundation to begin to understand their hearing loss.”

I love the idea of using self-knowledge, self-advocacy, and post-school vision as building blocks to support kids with hearing loss in their adjustment to middle school. So, I will explore these building blocks in a bit more depth below. I would also like to add a fourth building block to the list, which is navigating the middle school social scene.


Self-knowledge is when someone has a good understanding of his or her nature, beliefs, abilities, and limitations. This awareness leads to thoughts, thoughts lead to emotions, and emotions lead to an understanding of behavior (Heick, 2014).

Middle school is an important time to help your child understand the importance of self-knowledge in trying to find her way in the world. Multiple teachers for different subjects means that your child will have to find her way in different classroom settings and she will have to figure out the best strategies for her learning in each situation.

Exploring questions, like the ones listed below, can help your child figure out what she knows about her abilities and their limitations, how she likes to be challenged, and how she can tell when she has bit off more than she can chew.

  • How do I respond in a situation when I’m challenged? Academically? Emotionally? Physically?
  • In what situations do I need more support?
  • How does my hearing loss affect me in different situations?
  • Which resources and strategies do I tend to favor, and which do I ignore?
  • What can I do to make myself more aware of what I am thinking and my emotions?
  • What happens if I don’t change anything at all?


Learning to Let Go

Self-advocacy will be a huge part of your child’s success in middle school. If your child hasn’t had the opportunity to practice these skills in elementary school, now is the time to begin to pull back as a parent.

Is your son complaining that he can’t hear his Spanish teacher? Is your daughter having a hard time hearing her friends in the hallway and can’t seem to connect socially?

Help them come up with a plan, but they are the ones who need to put the plan into action.

  • Who they can talk to at school that could help them with a solution?
  • What would be a good plan to solve the problem?
  • What steps would they have to work through?

The more comfortable your child is in trying to figure out solutions to their problems the more confident he will become in his approach to middle school.

That being said, you don’t want to cut all ties with your child’s school and advocacy efforts. It is still important to play a role, but it’s just going to behind stage, rather than front and center. Stay in touch with teachers during the transition. Let them know what your concerns might be and follow up with any questions they may have. It’s a bit of a learning process for everyone as they get to know your child, and your child tries to find his own way to navigate.

“My son had a really positive experience in middle-school,” says Nicole Turano, mother to Sam, a 14-year-old who wears bilateral cochlear implants, “and now I can’t believe we are already making another transition to high school. He was the first student with a cochlear implant at his middle school so he had a lot of teaching that he had to do with teachers and students. I really taught him how to be a good advocate, I always tried to give him that and that was a skill that translated not only to his hearing needs, but also to his other needs in general and how approach teachers and administrators appropriately.”

Post-School Vision

Helping your child to develop an idea of where she wants to be when she is finished school can help her understand the purpose of what she is learning in the classroom. Having this understanding can help your child begin to take responsibility for what she has to do to get there.

The point of talking about where your child sees themselves in three or five years from now is not to turn her into a stressed out being, but instead to help her develop a sense of self efficacy, where she has goals in place and she is able to work towards them.

For example, if your son wants to play in the 8th grade chamber music ensemble there are certain steps he needs to take in 6th grade to ensure that he can reach his goal. Or maybe your daughter wants to take the advanced science classes in her final year. She is going to need to make sure she take the prerequisite courses so she can get to where she wants to go.

Or course along with setting goals comes the idea of making sure your child has realistic expectations in place. Your daughter might want to be on the starting line on the school soccer team, but that’s hard to do if she has never played before. This is where having self-knowledge can come into play where she understands her limits and know how to best use her strengths.

Social Skills

In some ways the social aspect of middle school can be more of a worry than the academic piece.

Some of the biggest concerns come from shifting social groups. As your child and his friends change, so do their social groups. Cliques can form easily, and the friendships that your child had in elementary school can change due to different interests and the needs of each child involved. Your child might find it overwhelming at times as he tries to manage old friendships, and also find room for new friends. Talk to your child about his changing friendships. Let them know it is normal for friends to come and go in his life. Just make sure that there are still some other children that he feels a connection with (Krywko, 2015).

It’s important that if your child does find heself in the middle of shifting friendships that she finds a way to connect with a group where she feels like a valued member. Take the time to get to know the kids your child talks about. Have your child bring friends home afterschool. Volunteer to drive your daughter and her study group to the library.

Another way to connect with new friends is to join clubs or afterschool activities. These groups tend to be centered on a common interest and they tend to meet in smaller groups so communication is easier.

One Thing to Keep in Mind

So, before you begin to make yourself crazy thinking of what your child might need help with as they start this transition to middle school, just keep one thing in mind.

“The parent component is huge,” continues Raschke. “Building transition skills begins at home. Parents are teaching kids how to make choices, how to set goals, what should be a priority. They are already teaching those things, whether they know it or not.”

So, likely, somewhere along the way you already are laying the groundwork for helping your child succeed. And, whether you are ready or not, before you know it the transition period will be over and you will be transitioning to high school. Find some time to enjoy the ride.



Heick, T. (2014).

Jackson, A. & Davis, G. (2000). Turning Points 2000: Educating adolescents in the 21st century. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Krywko, K. (2015). “Middle School 101: Helping Your Child Make a Smooth Transition”. Volta Voices. Vol 22. Issue 3. July-Sept 2015.

About Jane Madell

Jane Madell has a consulting practice in pediatric audiology. She is an audiologist, speech-language pathologist, and LSLS auditory verbal therapist, with a BA from Emerson College and an MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin. Her 45+ years experience ranges from Deaf Nursery programs to positions at the League for the Hard of Hearing (Director), Long Island College Hospital, Downstate Medical Center, Beth Israel Medical Center/New York Eye and Ear Infirmary as director of the Hearing and Learning Center and Cochlear Implant Center. Jane has taught at the University of Tennessee, Columbia University, Downstate Medical School, and Albert Einstein Medical School, published 7 books, and written numerous books chapters and journal articles, and is a well known international lecturer.

1 Comment

  1. A great tool for collection data on your child or student’s progress and dreams is this POST SECONDARY TRANSITION GUIDE. It begins in 7th grade by collecting a longitudinal record of student progress, interests, goals, and agency involvement. A yearly checklist is included to guide families and schools to ensure effective programming. You can print a pdf version or keep a fillable version on your computer. I hope this helps all students with their transition skills. It’s free!

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