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Worries about Starting Kindergarten
I know that anxiety around starting school for the first time is normal-but I *know* my kid is going to have problems. He screams and can't handle even the smallest frustration, seems unable to draw a distinction between ''the DVD skipped'' and ''I am falling off a cliff''-the scream is the same: ear splitting,scary and loud. Seeing a therapist after school starts (their scheduling). We have tried charts, talking, time outs, which work for other things, but when I feel like saying, ''oh, get a grip, it's just a DVD, we'll rewind it'' it also seems like he can truly not help it, that all frustrations are equal. He has said he can't and if he tries to hold it in, eventually he sobs and screams anyway. It has been suggested by some(non professionals)that he is a ''highly sensitive child'' might have ''mild asperger's'' or have ''sensory issues'' (he's sensitive to tags, smells, etc) I just plain want to help my kid whether it's getting an evaluation from the school district which I hear can take until next year or giving the teachers as much helpful info as possible, but fear I will stigmatize him if I say too much and then they won't expect him to behave well, expectations will self fulfill and stress him more, causing more frustration. If any parents/teachers have gone through this, or know resources I can use NOW, I'd be grateful. Please no ''bad parent'' comments- already feeling crappy as it is-really need support! -Please stop screaming!
I've taught kindergarten for several years; my background is in special education. Your concern is absolutely natural and, honestly, could well be warranted: starting ''big school'' is a HUGE transition and it does play on a lot of the things (especially frustration tolerance) that you identify as challenging for your child. I think we as a society are way quicker than we need to be at pouncing on Asperger's as a diagnosis for quirky--but sometimes, issues like that can be a piece of the puzzle, and the pieces do start sliding into place during the early school years. Some kids have a very hard adjustment to kindergarten, and then things settle down in later grades; other kids slide right into kindergarten but have trouble down the line. But it's common, for better or for worse, that the first school experiences do bring out a lot of a child's gifts AND challenges.
Should you tell school staff, ''Hey, people have said that my kid might have this?'' Your call--personally, I wouldn't lead with it. But I WOULD want to clearly let them know what challenges he has, and what works to help him manage them. Just so they don't go into it thinking that the best way to handle an upset over a broken crayon is to rationalize with him that it's not a big deal.
You do a great job simply and eloquently explaining your child and your concerns in your post: perhaps you could put some thought into composing something similar for your child's teachers. Leading with ''My son is...'', and describing some of the wonderful traits you see in him--his sense of humor, his curiosity, whatever. Then saying, ''As you get to know him better, you might discover that he sometimes struggles with''-- telling them what it sometimes can look like when he's overwhelmed or very frustrated. Honoring the teacher's perspective by saying something like, ''I'm sure that you'll have systems and strategies in place to deal with these challenges if they happen'', and then adding something to the effect of, ''however, I wanted to share with you some of the things we've found are most helpful (or not helpful) at home.''
As a teacher of many kids (with and without special needs) who are new to ''big school'', I can tell you we see it all, and we expect it won't always be smooth sailing. I've a kid who melted down for an hour because his samurai sword couldn't come to kindergarten with him: I've had parents who needed, five days later, to be shown the door so their kid could finally be at ''big school'' by himself. Parents sometimes tell us, before the first day, that their kid is going to be AWFUL (''I'm afraid he's going to bite everybody...''): sometimes, we see a bit of that, and other times, we honestly never come across the kid they were describing. Often, in fact, kids act VERY different in school than they do at home--usually, for what it's worth, it seems like they're better behaved at school.
A good teacher will listen to what you have to say, but also be able to see the school as its own environment--she won't still be throwing out those ''self-fulfilling prophecies'' if your child genuinely has no frustration tolerance issues at school.
An evaluation, should that be warranted, cannot legally take all year. But the process by which folks figure out whether your son needs one may take awhile--as it should. The first step is to give it a go in the regular class, with you sharing the relevant information (again, specific challenges, not general diagnoses) with the classroom teacher. You may all find that he slides right into the existing classroom structure. You may find that the teacher finds he needs a little something extra--a cool-down corner to go to if he's becoming overwhelmed, a sticker chart for handling frustration without tantrums, what have you. You might meet with her a couple times to go over how things are going. If a significant amount of time goes by with problems still occuring at a level which is well beyond what's ''typical'' for kindergarten (and that, for the record, is a VERY broad brush to paint with), it may move in the direction of an evaluation. Once that decision is made, and that paper is signed, the school has sixty days to do the whole thing and have a meeting to discuss it.
Sometimes, parents may think this takes too long--they may, understandably, want to get the assessment done sooner rather than later. It's been my experience, though, that this isn't always the best idea (unless you run into the rare VERY OBVIOUS situation where a child is very seriously emotionally disturbed or has a severe developmental disability): if you test too early, before the child has had a chance to acclimatize to the school setting and before enough curriculum has been taught to see if he's mastered it, you end out spending many hours putting together something that doesn't show enough of how school actually IS for the child. I guess what I'm saying is that the first year of school, with or without an evaluation in the mix, is something that unfolds over time--give the teacher, right now, what she needs to know to understand your child's gifts and challenges, and together, you'll both learn a lot more as time passes.
My absolute best wishes to you: your child is blessed to have such a caring parent. a_teacher
The school is REQUIRED to respond in a certain amount of time and required to test in a certain amount of time. After they have received your request in writing. Please make copies of everything you forward to the school and EVERYTHING should be in writing. It would be helpful to you to record meetings that you attend concerning your son. Please look for advocates in your area, they will be a great support. Advocates know the terminology, the regulations and rules to follow. I was a parent lost in the system trying to help my child. Do a google search for ''Autistic Advocates'' or ''Asberger's Advocates'' maybe ''speech and language advocates''..in Berkeley. I'm new to the area and don't know of anyone. But I'm certain there are many in your area. Good luck
My kid who has very little experience in ''away from home'' care (ie: preschool,day care, babysitting by non family for more than 2 or 3 hours) is about to go to kindergarten (which is all day now, not half days) in Oakland, and I want to hear from people who have been in this situation and how they and their child coped, what problems arose, if any, and also what positive things you have to say or advice you have to help us through the immenent transition. We are already planning on meeting with the families for play at the park in the last couple of weeks of summer, and have gone to the school's fundraiser a couple of months ago, and we're familiar with the campus though our kid is not familiar with the classrooms, and have visited the after school program. My concern is about the very long day for a kid who is used to spending lots of time at home in our care going to a place they don't really know which is unfamiliar and having to stay there from 8-ish to 3-ish relying on strangers to meet their needs, deal with their quirks. Naturally, it won't always be unfamiliar, but until then...I want to hear it all, but please no dumping on us about the group inexperience, and no ''just suck it up'' comments. This post is to help us prepare. Thanks! -Like to be prepared
It helped that several kids from his preschool went there, to, so your playdates with chidren that will go with you child to the same school are a great idea. He also liked talking about the school as ''his'' school. You can also play ''school'' - maybe there are older school age kids that would do that with your child.
Kids are ready to be on their own at a certain age, and somewhere around 5 years they can spend a long time in a school setting. You may be more anxious than your child is/will be. My son had to go to the after care program after the school day was over, and he loved that, too. By the way, we are at Kaiser Elementary, and love it.
That said, some kids may be just too young to start school. I've seen two that went back to preschool. Again, that's a developmental thing...
Another issue can be that the school simply doesn't fit your family needs and values. For example, a more ''relaxed'' teaching style may work better for your child than a strict academic approach. When Oakland started the long day program, my son's school figured out very quickly that kindergarteners had to have longer breaks, otherwise they just couldn't stay focused.
Like with almost anything in life, the worst that can happen is that you can try this out, and then see if it works for your family. If not, you can either wait another year or find another school that fits your needs and values better. Oakland school parent
These skills are expected in Oakland Public Schools by third grade. I can walk through a classroom and identify with great accuracy those children who have not had preschool preparation for kindergarten. The same children also tend to be those in public school who are picked on (bullied is too strong) and excluded because they do not have the social skills necessary to recognize who has the ?power? in a group, how to wait for an appropriate entry point in the group conversation / dynamics and when to identify that you are not welcome in the group. You Gotta Be Tough to Be an OUSD Student
We're an OUSD family (who tried a well-known and highly reputable private for two years and left because the academics weren't so great, among other things- a big surprise to us) with a 3rd grader and incoming kindergartener and can't say enough good things about the school, the other families, the teachers and principal, and the fabulous academic and enricment programs. I agree with the person who signed themselves as ''Stop the Fearmongering about Public Schools''. Unfortunately, the district doesn't seem to know how to do PR about all the good stuff-- but there is PLENTY of it, and that's coming from a parent who's also an educator. Get to know the other families, do some volunteering, and feel good about your decision to send your child to an Oakland public school-- you likely won't regret it, and your child will likely love all that happens in the ''full day''. fellow OUSD mom
My daughter will be 5 next September, and although it seems soon, both public and private open houses start now, and we need to decide in a few months where our daughter should be next year. My daughter wants to go to the public k where one of her old friends is likely to be. Our concern is that she is perhaps too 'emotionally sensitive'. She thrives on things being very orderly and predictable and becomes upset if things are not as she expects. Like, she is the one who opens the garage door in the morning - if somone else inadvertently does it, she is likely to melt into tears. With other kids, if they insist something is true, that she knows is not (whatever, dragons are real, the sun is blue, ...) she again is liable to melt into tears. So, she seems easily upset by things that don't bother most kids. Not all the time; sometimes her mood is more easygoing. She's smart as a whip, relatively outgoing, and very loving. Oh, and she also is quite strong-willed. My question is, is this typical 4yr old behavior, and she will grow out of it? Is this something that might make public kindergarten harder for her (we are in an Oaklnad district for a highly rated school in the hills)? Should we instead try to keep her in her small orderly Montessori school? Anybody have a similarly sensitive child? Concerned Mama
But as for public vs. private based on her personality... How small is the Montessori you're considering? All public schools are no more than 20 in a classroom (private can go larger). And it depends on how you want to help your daughter adjust to ''being in the world'' and your personal preferences. Have you had a chance to tour the classrooms of both schools you're considering?
Do you see public as being too overwhelming and private as small and comforting? It's not always the reality, and it's not always the right thing for your child. You can have a warm, nurturing teacher in a public and a burnt out, strict teacher in a private. I do know that some children even a year older than your eldest can seem disproportionaly ''big and noisy'' - but yes, your child will join those ranks too. And there are no guarantees about anything being easier and better. But that's life!
Kindergarten wasn't necessarily easy for my son, but even at age 8 he can look back on it and even gave his younger sister advice along the lines of ''You know, I hated kindergarten the first day - but then I got to like it! I bet you'll love it!'' Mom of Two
My daughter is very sensitive, and I've observed in her kindergarten class that she's not the only one. Most of the sensitive ones are on the youngish side, and are generally either older siblings or single children, but not the younger sibling. I will say that the transition to kindergarten is much, much bigger for them than you can probably conceive, and I would urge you to really work at getting to know a couple other kids in the school--and preferably in her assigned class, when you find out what it is--make playdates, attend school functions this spring & summer, and plan to spend more time with your child than you would ordinarily think necessary: we went from happy full-time preschooler, to taking a lot of time to get used to the afterschool program (which is filled with big kids too, and can be a little overwhelming. In fact, lunch and recess around all those big kids--and so many of them--can initially be trying for kids who are used to a controlled, non-chaotic preschool environment! But they do get used to it). You're lucky you've got some choices! I didn't much care for my neighborhood school, and the preschool told me she was definitely too old for preschool, and the private schools told me she was definitely too young! And really, she's doing just fine, just like her friends who are a little younger than her, and the ones who were born before Sept 1. are also doing just fine... she's still roughly on par with them, and learning like mad!
I know I'm nuts, but could any experienced parents please help me deal with my anxiety over letting my one and only child out to the brave new world of kindergarten? My daughter has been in daycare and preschool and has been adjusting well. She's healthy and generally happy. I know I should get myself together and be positive, but I have a hard time doing it. I'm worried about her making new friends, taking care of herself at lunch, speaking up in class, letting the teacher know when she needs help, etc. Two more weeks before school starts and already I feel like crying. I don't get it -- I'm sending my daughter to kindergarten, not to a jungle! Why am I soooo worried? My husband told me that I should have more faith in our daughter's ability to take care of herself. I do, but I'm just going to pieces because... Oh, because I'm just losing my mind, I guess. Does anyone have any advice for me? Thank you in advance
Starting school is a big step, but if your daughter has never had any difficulty making friends, if she has been in daycare and preschool for a while, why should it be a problem? Good luck. Dianna
Schools have different agendas, student-teacher ratios, and social climates than good daycare or preschool. John Taylor Gatto has written quite convincingly about the ''hidden curriculum'' in schools. Perhaps it's worth asking what you want most for your child with regard to learning. What, really, do you want her to think about how to learn, where and when to learn, what her place in the world is. Now, ask yourself, and read lots of people who have thought about these questions too. Personally, I think that most schools want students to learn that learning is what happens at school; that what is important is what they say is important (forget science if we're learning about missions now); that it's normal to hang out with people only of the same age; that ''authority'' is the end point for answers; and that fitting in is really the very most important lesson one can learn.
I'd like to recommend works by John Holt also, and I'm sure you could find other interesting work out there.
I just wouldn't do it, and I know lots of people who won't and don't. Even if you simply delay a while, why go to kindergarten at all? It's not state mandated, and there is some good evidence that delaying ''school'' until later is of real benefit for children.
So now I'll pick up my staff and wander back to crying in the wilderness. stefani
She said that the usual routine is that there is an orientation for students, while parents listen, concerning cubbies and how they mark down that they are present, about bringing a healthy snack/lunch, and about inside voices vs. outside voices, etc. She said that Kindergarten teachers are specifically instructed to tell their parents not to cry. I am not sure how they do that and if it is done in front of the kids, but, obviously, it is a common occurance (i.e., you are not alone!).
Perhaps it would help you to know, with specificity, what is going to happen in your child's class on the first day. If possible, I would get permission to telephone the teacher and ask how ''day one'' will unfold and your role in helping with the transition. Good luck. Lynn
my son is nearly five,,, in november and has just started kingdergarten,, i know he is on the young side i am somewhat concerned about him,, the teacher has already spoken to me more than once about how he gets easily distracted,,, is brillant when he can focus,,, is very very energetic and gets overly excited,, silly in class to the point of bumping into,, or pushing other children he says he is sad alot,,, and that he does not like it,,, i know part of that is transition, and wanting to be at home with mother,,, but i worry he will be the trouble kid,,, the one that wont make the grade,, be able to say his numbers,,etc any opinions, concerned mother
I made him repeat kindergarten because I did not want to set him up to struggle for the rest of his school years; and kindergarten would be the best year to hold him back before he developed an attachment to his classmates. His teacher told us that most parents would rather have their child pass to the next grade and struggle, than repeat, but mainly because parents associate their child's ''failure'' as a reflection on themselves instead of the child's academic well being. My son is in first grade now and is sailing through his lessons -- so I know I made the right decision.
I noticed just above your question was a link for past discussions about kindergarten readiness. You might find that useful to read. It would not be the end of the world to pull him out now and wait until next year. You could check into some of the pre-k programs and see if they have any openings before making a decision. I think you could explain it to him in a way that wouldn't make him feel bad (i.e. ''Dad and I made a mistake and started you in kindergarten too early, it'd be better for you to be a year older. We want you to take your time growing up so we decided another year of playing would be best. Next year you'll be really ready and it will be just right.'') If you found a pre-k program you could make the pitch that it wasn't preschool. The teacher is your best resource. If you are really having a difficult time deciding you could try consulting Meg Zweiback. She does short term consults on issues like this all the time. Her number is (510) 836-1450. Whatever you decide I wish you luck! SW
On transitioning into Kindergarten. My son did this just great, so I have no specific personal advice to give, other than visiting the school a few times before the start and playing in the playground. However, I was just reading "Real Boys," by Wm. Pollack in which he discusses the stresses and strains our culture puts on boys to be little men, suck it in, stiff upper lip and all that. He specifically addresses this problem and how boys are given a lot less slack than girls in beginning kindergarten. So if you can find a copy of this book (worthwhile in many ways) at a local library or the bookstore and lookup kindergarten, this might be of some help to you. Good luck.
I was surprised by how tired my son was the first couple months of kindergarten. Even though he had been in preschool all day and was no longer napping, he seemed exhausted by 2 o'clock when he got out of kindergarten. I think the increased structure is tiring as well as the stress of a new setting. If your child will not be in after school child care, I would recommend NOT planning any after-school activities (sports/music, etc). If you have started these things, maybe take a break or move them to a weekend time slot. Then after the transition you can always fill up after school time with occasional playdates. Also, don't plan any social events on weekday nights for a while.
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