12-14: Middle School Age


Encourage self-advocacy skills

Self-advocacy is the ability of your child to convey their needs by their own initiative. Your child should know what they do well, as well as areas they could improve upon. Your child should also be able to share what works for them to meet their needs. Understood.org has an excellent resource on developing self-advocacy, which you can access here. 

Encourage the development of life skills

All youth need a basic understanding of practical skills to ensure success in their adult lives. Here are a few life skills that your child should acquire:

Money management tasks including:

  • Counting money
  • Making change
  • How to open a bank account
  • Understanding how to write a check

Food preparation/purchasing/safety tasks including:

  • Purchasing groceries and identifying ingredients to be used in meal prep
  • Understanding food labels
  • Understanding how to use certain utensils, including cutlery

Dressing tasks including:

  • Understanding what clothing to wear according to the weather
  • Fasten buckles, snaps, shoe laces

Personal hygiene tasks including:

  • Bathing daily
  • Brushing teeth daily
  • Wearing deodorant
  • Maintaining facial and body hair
  • Proper use and disposal of sanitary items for females

Housekeeping and maintenance tasks including:

  • Keeping personal areas clean, such as bedroom and bathroom
  • Proper use of cleaning supplies
  • Wiping counter tops and sinks

Social skills including:

  • Saying hello and good-bye
  • Asking others about their interests
  • Understanding others have different opinions

Employment skills including:

  • Dressing for interviews
  • Arriving to work on time 
  • Scheduling transportation
  • Accepting assistance from employers and co-workers

Responsibility in the community including: 

  • Understanding emotions
  • Responding to conflict
  • Speaking to first responders
  • Problem-solving
  • Asking for help
  • Respecting others

Making decisions including: 

  • Determining choices
  • Managing time
  • Healthier food options
  • Friendships and advice

Safety issues including:

  • Telling a friend or family member of their wereabouts
  • Not approaching unfamiliar individuals
  • Asking for help when needed

Teach communication skills

Communication is key to every aspect of life, especially for your child. It is important that you teach your child to share when they need assistance, and develop relationships with others. Check out Do2Learn's toolbox on improving communication skills.

Encourage friendships

Friendships are an integral part of life, and have a profound impact on a person's well-being. Friendships also allow for your child to form natural supports that will carry them throughout their educational careers. Some places to encourage your child to seek out friendships include:

  • Neighborhoods
  • Schools, including clubs and teams
  • Churches and synagogues

The Arc of Massachusetts has developed two comprehensive toolkits about developing friendships for school and at work. Click here to visit their site!

next steps

Priority actions: Learn about transition planning


Virginia requirements

Under IDEA, transition planning should occur by your child's 16th birthday. In Virginia, however, transition planning begins at age 14. Be sure to bring it up at your child's IEP meeting if the school has not already done so. 

Priority Actions: Apply for Services


Apply for waiver services if you have not already

We cannot stress the importance of being placed on the waiver wait list early. If you have not applied by this time, it is critical you do so now.