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  1. Keep communication open and positive with the school personnel. They need to know that you’re there to help them, too. There will be times when they’ll need somebody to interpret (“Why did he react *this* way when the bell rang after lunch, and we told him to come inside for Social Studies?”) and you’ll want to make sure you have advocates at school to keep an eye on things when you’re not there.
  2. Give him some room to navigate. We learn best from our mistakes. Provide him an objective lens to view himself through. Yes, he’s your precious child and will always be beautiful in your eyes. But he will also do dumb things and put his foot in his mouth and embarrass himself. The more he feels empowered to spread his wings now, fail early and learn from his mistakes, the more he will come to rely on his own judgment and abilities (not yours). And since we’re preparing him to become an adult in (gulp!) seven short years, he needs to practice now to learn independence and self-reliance.
  3. Trust him. Set that example, and he will learn he can trust himself.
  4. Above all: Don’t Panic. No matter what happened to us during that age, we made it through middle school, and so will he.

Our roles as parents are changing. We’re not the main characters in his life anymore. We’re in a supporting role now. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If it seems like it went by too fast, and you’re not ready to let go yet, remember two things. First, there are parent support groups in your community (look on Meetup or in Yahoo Groups) if you need a reality check. And second: our parents had the same insecurities when we were this age. Typical or special needs, this transition time is hard on everybody, but we’re in this together, and we’ll make it through together, too.

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Kate Dran is a user experience analyst, professional writer, autism advocate and parent of 2 beautiful and perfect sons, one with autism, one developing typically. She founded Adaptive Solutions Analysis, LLC , a private consulting firm that provides usability assessments and user experience analysis for adaptive technologies that support the cognitive, sensory and motor development needs of K-12 students with autism. She believes that autism-friendly user experience is human-friendly user experience.