So…Kindergarten. Kinda hating it right now.
We knew it would be a challenge for Adam because of his physical delays and his social issues. He continues to struggle with low muscle tone and while it doesn’t slow him down that much, his delays are pretty noticeable in a room full of five-year-olds. He simply is not as agile or flexible as they are and he sometimes struggles to keep up.
On top of that, we have long suspected he may have a mild form of autism or aspergers syndrome. He does not like strangers, takes a loooong time to warm up to new authority figures, has a deep fear of being left, is easily startled, and is quickly overwhelmed by noise, lights, crowds, etc.
But in spite of these challenges, mentally he is either right on track or ahead of his peers. We had no doubt that cognitively, he was ready for Kindergarten. I had long talks with the principal at orientation and with Adam’s teacher at assessment and talked about all this. We agreed to take a wait-and-see approach and let him get into the routine before making any decisions.
Mrs. B (Adam’s teacher) has been great. We met earlier this week and she has some concerns, mostly with his attention span and his socialization. She suggested we get the school psychologist to observe him for a few days and had all the consent forms ready for me to sign. I was happy to agree, we are as anxious as anyone to give him the boost he needs. Plus, I can tell that Mrs. B genuinely cares about him and wants to do what she can to help him.
The principal, though, is another story. I have had a run-in with this principal before with Mia. Remember?
About three weeks ago the principal (Ms. S) called me to see what she could do to help Adam. They had had two assemblies in the week and both times he had to go sit in the office and color because he was too overwhelmed. Ms. S. told me she had offered him a book to look at and he turned away from her and wouldn’t respond… as he does when he is forced to interact with strangers. I told her that was not unusual behavior for him, reminded her about our talk at orientation, and expressed my willingness to do everything we could to help him. She said she would send home consent forms for the school psychologist to evaluate him, but she never did. When Mrs. B had the forms for me the other day, I mentioned the phone call from the principal and she was surprised. Apparently they hadn’t talked about him at all, despite the principal telling me she would meet with Mrs. B.
But that is a small detail and completely understandable. There are a lot of kids at the school, I certainly don’t expect Ms. S to remember every detail about each one and the start of the school year is always hectic so she may have forgotten. Again, understandable.
There is a special needs preschool at this elementary school, literally steps from the Kindergarten classrooms. If you’ve been with us from the start, you know that when Adam was a baby, he was in an early intervention program where a therapist came to the house every week and helped him learn to talk and walk and climb stairs, etc. That program ended when he turned three, so we had him tested to see if he qualified for the preschool equivalent — which is held at the preschool in our elementary school.
We were happy when he was ineligible for the program because it meant he had been progressing very well. But, they tested cognitive skills almost exclusively and of course he blew all those tests out of the water. The fact that, at age three, he couldn’t get into the chair by himself to take the tests did not seem to be a factor. I raised the issue of his physical and social challenges but was assured they were no big deal and would get better as he got older. And if it didn’t? Well, there is a special needs preschool literally steps from the room where he will take Kindergarten so you’ll have all these resources to help you when the time comes.
So here we are and up until today, I thought we were on the right track. Then this morning I got a phone call from the principal wanting to put him in an extended hours Kindergarten class for the kids who are needing a little extra help. I was all for it until she told me the focus of the class — phonics.
This is the kid who knew all his numbers, shapes, colors, and letters by the time he was three and a half. This is the kid who loves going to the library because they have the alphabet painted onto the carpet and he gets to walk on the letters while saying each one. This is the kid who fills up my driveway with chalked ABCs and who can spell the word rocket. He knows the alphabet forwards, backwards, upside down, and inside out. He knows the difference between vowels and consonants. He knows that “C” makes two different sounds. He can read street signs. He can even do this…
I really don’t think phonics is part of his set of challenges.
I pointed all this out to Ms. S. and she argued that they had had two assessments and both times his scores were low. I told her I was at one of the assessments (pre-Kindergarten with his teacher) and if the other was similar, he wasn’t answering the questions because he didn’t trust the teacher/evaluator yet, NOT because he didn’t know the answers. And then she said, “Okay, well so can I go ahead and sign him up for the class then?”
I told her again that this was not a solution for him. We know he needs special help, but NOT in phonics. He is a pretty laid-back and cheerful kid, but he’s not totally unaware. He knows there are things he can’t do that other kids can do. And I am not about to put him in a special needs class where he might start doubting his ability to do the one thing he really excels at and is really proud of himself about.
And then she said I had to come in for a meeting next week to discuss it.
So, I will. And I’m going to take these with me (click to enbiggen):
We did these yesterday. I helped him draw the snowman but all the other work is his. And as he was writing, he was naming each letter and telling me the sound it makes and a word that starts with each one. All without me prompting him. He wanted to talk about it — he can talk about letters and numbers for hours.
But Ms. S does not want to hear this. She wants to be able to put a little check next to his name on her spreadsheet so she can show the superintendent how her school is helping kids with low test scores. She doesn’t want to consider that the score might be the result of something other than knowledge of the materials. She wants to slap a label on him so he will fit into a program that has been developed from studies and statistics and averages, not on individual child needs. I do not doubt that she wants to help. But she is not an educator, she is a bureaucrat.
And I will not trust her with my kid.
What bothers me the most is that after we meet next week and I decline the class again, there will be a note somewhere in his file saying how the school tried to offer him this special program but the parents refused. Not, oh hey, the parents made some good points and after reevaluation, we decided they were right and this isn’t the program for him. No. The parents refused. Which means, the parents are unwilling to help them help him.
(Yes, mama spent the day looking into alternatives.)