Why Is Middle School So Challenging?

February 1, 2013
by: Peg Dawson

When parents bring their son or daughter to my office for an evaluation, one of the first questions I ask after they describe their concerns is, “When did these problems first appear?” While the answer to that question varies from child to child, with older youngsters, a common response often is, “My child was doing great (or fine or hanging in there) until he/she hit middle school.  Then everything seemed to fall apart.”             Why is that? There are a number of answers to that question, but most have to do with brain development and school expectations—and the increasing divergence between the two as children hit the teen years. Let’s look more closely at what’s happening during this time period. In the middle school years, the demands on executive skills (planning and organization, task initiation, goal directed persistence) become significantly greater. By the time youngsters reach middle school and high school, they are expected to work independently, to keep track of more complex assignments and responsibilities, and to plan and execute long-term assignments such as studying for exams and completing multi-step projects. Changing classes and having multiple teachers with diverse expectations place a great deal of stress on organizational systems… Continue reading Why Is Middle School So Challenging?