Guest Post: Author Diane Christiansen Shares Transition Advice

Categories: Resources

I am really excited about today’s guest post! Today, author Diane Mayer Christiansen will be sharing her experiences as a parent of a child with autism during the challenging transition to middle school. Her valuable perspective helps to shed light on successful strategies for making this transition easier and less intimidating for both parent and child. Her suggestions can be applied to any transition situation – such as transitioning to a new school or into high school. Diane’s newest middle grade book book, Snub Club, was written as a way to open up conversations about ASD and other neurological differences with children.  This fiction text gives the reader an idea of what ASD is like on a daily bases all while sharing a fun and fast-moving mystery and crime fighting story. What a great addition this text would be to all middle schools to improve understanding and empathy!

Navigating Middle School


            Navigating Middle School can be daunting for any child, but for a child with autism, it can be completely overwhelming.  As a parent of a child with autism, entering into this new world was nothing short of freighting for both of us.

I knew that the first weeks would be difficult. Transitioning from classroom to classroom, using lockers for the first time, and getting used to new teachers and routines would culminate in anger and frustration.  His social game would also be thrown off as new faces appeared in his classrooms and familiar faces disappeared to different Middle Schools across town.


So, with all of this in mind, I sat down at my IEP meeting to come up with strategies to tackle the issues before they arose, or at least make the transition a little more smooth and a little less anxiety driven.


Making it real:  Every year, the fifth grade classes make the pilgrimage to the Middle Schools.  This visit consists of a tour and a talk from the principal.  It’s a great opportunity for the children to see where they will be spending the next three years.  For my son, out of sight is out of mind and once the trip was over, the reality of Middle School was over.  I decided to set up several visits to the school.  He had a private tour and then revisited throughout the end of the school year and into the summer. He visited classrooms and got to know a few of the teachers.  The office staff got to know him and he was able to voice some concerns and get concrete answers.  By the time the school year began, he was familiar with the hallways and lockers and felt comfortable with some of the staff.


Teacher-Parent Connection:  I cannot stress enough the importance of communication between teachers and parents. There are times when much emotional baggage is brought home from a school day, and days when different baggage is brought to school.  These emotional issues can have a direct effect on learning. I am sure that I send at least three emails a week to various teachers with issues that have come up and there are times when I feel as if I am a bother.  I know that they have their hands full.  But every time I begin to apologize, they tell me the same thing–thanks for letting us know, and they mean it.  Many of the strategies that work in the classroom, work at home as well, and the reverse is also true. Keeping consistency is the key to success and it feels great to have a team to help.


Celebrating the positive:  I have always been a believer in the idea that the things that make us different are the things that make us special and that holds true for children with special needs.  When my son was diagnosed with autism I felt as many parents do, worried, afraid, confused.  Sometimes in the rush of the day, getting ready for school, dealing with the issues that come up on a daily basis, we can get caught up in the negative.   More and more, I try to worry less about the missed social cues or the anxiety that drives my son and instead focus of the silver ling.  It’s there.  It may not be shouting in your face, but it’s there.  As educators and parents come together, that should be our focus.  Praising a child for making a great transition during the day, an extra star for modeling appropriate behavior, a night out to a movie to celebrate a kind deed.  These are small notices that really help to boost self-esteem and can hopefully drive a positive attitude.


So with Middle School in full swing, it’s smooth sailing.  Okay, maybe there’s a bump or two, but it’s a work in progress.  Being vocal about my son helps to create awareness.  Being an author with a story to tell also helps.  It’s a journey and I love being on it.


Diane Mayer Christiansen graduated with a Biology degree despite her struggles with dyslexia. She worked at both the University of Chicago and Northwestern University doing genetic research. Christiansen is now a published author writing young adult fantasy and middle school chapter books.  Her characters are based around children with special needs such as dyslexia and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She speaks to parents and teachers about learning to celebrate those things that make our children different and her journey with her son and his ASD.



JACKIE’S JOURNAL: Elementary non-fiction book about one boy’s journey with autism spectrum.

Available on Amazon

SNUB CLUB: Elementary fiction chapter book. Two boys with ASD use their super hero abilities to solve the mystery of the disappearing donuts.

Available on Amazon






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