11 Middle School Must Haves

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back to school: Special Education Middle School Must Haves

Living in sunny western NY –our schools haven’t quite started yet, and we are still enjoying the last bits of summer.  In fact, the regular school year doesn’t finish until late June.

Seriously, I don’t even want to think about school right now, I just want to enjoy some sunshine and summer laziness before the craziness begins – you know, school, homework, girl scouts, tae kwon do, religion class – the list goes on and on.  I can feel my stress levels rise just thinking about it!  Please, take me back to my hammock!

Sigh, but alas, in order to successfully transition, I must start to think about it.  We’ve got to be organized both for my sanity, and to help my kids be able to be a little more independent.

I want to help you get there too, so I’ve put together a list of Middle School Special Education must haves to make life easier –so that you can stay in your hammock and enjoy the sunshine for just a bit longer.

1. Combination lock

Master lock 1500iD back to school ADA inspired locks
Master Lock 1500 iD

Combination Locks – Did you know Master Lock makes a lock with a larger face, no numbers and the ability to set your own directional combination?  Kids with fine motor challenges can have difficulty moving the dial to those tiny little numbers and notches with precision.  This is a great way to help them be more independent.  Master Lock 1500iD Locker Lock.  I’ve seen these at both Wal-Mart and Amazon. Master Lock also has a line of ADA compliant locks.

2. Adapted Physical Education & swim clothes

one piece swimsuit
One piece bathing suit

My kiddo gets extra help as part of adapted PE, but does take PE (and changes in the locker room) with all the other kids.  With that, we try to pick out clothing that’s loose and easy to slide on and off. 

When it comes to the swim module, we send in a one-piece bathing suit with tank-style straps (no criss-cross in the back). For the summer, I’ve traditionally purchased two piece swim suits to make it easier to use the bathroom while on vacation, at the waterpark, etc.  However, we’ve found that two piece suits are more difficult to put on – particularly in a locker room where there is a timeline.  Easy is the name of the game.  Now is a great time to purchase – there are lots on clearance.  I’ve seen the one-piece styles at both Justice and Land’s End.

Art Class


For fine motor challenges, try AbiliGrips.  It’s foam that fits over paintbrushes, pencils utensils, etc.  to make gripping easier.


Wilson Jones binder back to school

Having ONE place to hold all the things is essential:  Organizer? Check.  Music folder? Check.  Homework? Check.  Clear front for the schedule? Check. This makes is easier for my kiddo to manage middle school paperwork independently.

She is really tough on binders, mostly due to fine motor challenges – opening and closing can be tough.  I really like Wilson Jones binders – they open easy, come in bright colors and are tough.  I was replacing other brands every-other-month until I found these.  Now I purchase 2 at the beginning of the year and replace mid-year as needed.  Bonus?  I can order them online, cup of coffee in hand.

oral motor

Abilitations chew ease pencil toppers back to school
Chew-ease pencil toppers

Save the pencils and pen caps from destruction.  Abilitations chew-ease pencil toppers to the rescue!  Get them on Amazon.


Abilitations notebook paper special education back to school
Hi Write Paper

Abiltations has a great line of products to help kids with challenges be successful.  Composition notebooks and filler paper with visual cues for proper letter placement. They can be purchased at Wal Mart.

IEP Summary

IEP summary template for special education back to school
One page IEP summary

Yes, teachers should read the IEP cover to cover – but having a summary available at the start of the school year can help.  Use our template to get it done quickly so you can go back to enjoying the rest of summer. (I always add a picture – my kiddo is more than a pile of IEP paper.) Want a template to make your own? Get yours as part of our Back to School printables pack.


over ear headphones from the Dollar  Tree

Every year this is on our back-to-school supply list.  My kiddo won’t wear the kind that fit inside of the ears, and I don’t want to spend a fortune on what will likely get lost or destroyed.  Believe it or not, the Dollar Tree has the over the ear headphones – I purchase 4 or 5 of them at the beginning of each year, and it’s a life saver!


I like to choose a spiral bound planner that is designed for elementary school students.  The holes make it easy to put it into the binder – and using one designed for elementary school often means more space to write, and less on the page visually.

travel case

Travel case for back to school
Small travel case

Pack a small travel case with clean pants, underwear and sanitary pads, just in case.  She keeps it in the bottom of her school locker so it is always accessible. We like Caboodles for the fun styles and colors, but any store like Wal Mart or Target sells small travel cases.

New sneakers

No tie shoelaces for back to school special education

My kid is hard on sneakers. Each year, we purchase new ones and hope to find styles without laces.  As kids get older, they are harder to find.  Sometimes, with all the OT help in the world, kids with special needs don’t master tying shoes.  You can pre-order the new Nike self-lacing sneaker (which I heard will cost about $350) or use this fun, inexpensive alternative.  Get a 50% off + Free Shipping discount code on our no-tie laces with our free Back to School printables pack!

lunch notes

If you’re read about our gluten and dairy free lifestyle, you know that I pack lunches daily.  My kids love it when I write a little note for them to find.  Use our fun printable lunch notes, or use the blank templates to make your own.

Free Printables for Back to school

Save time with our back to school printable pack, a free download that includes templates and printables to save time and get your family ready for back to school:

  • Weekly School Services Calendar
  • Lunch notes
  • IEP Summary
  • Finding Friends infographic
  • Exclusive 50% off + Free Shipping code on no-tie laces

YES! I want mine NOW!

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  1. Great list! I do the same with the headphones – I found some at 5 below and just load up! Saves so much money. I really like the idea of the IEP summary – and a lot of the tools you have here.

    • Thank you so much! (And, I can do some $$$ damage in 5 Below! Love it!)

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