Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Follow-Up Post

to the Super Busy-ness post that I wrote the other day. Gail and I were talking in the comments section of that post about the whole school situation with Jeriah and I had typed up a VERY lengthy response to her and then Jeriah bumped the laptop, my thumb hit something and it went "kapoof" because "poof" doesn't adequately convey my feelings about losing such a lengthy reply.

So I told her that I would type it up again as a blog post since it was sufficiently long enough to be a post in itself! So here goes!

Gail said (and I quote): "Wow. You have a lot on your plate. I pray that the Lord gives you direction. To go from an IEP into a neurotypical classroom is a big deal. To deal with a possible diagnosis of Aspberger's can be either devastating or a relief. Bless you in your journey!"

It is a big thing to go from an IEP to a neurotypical classroom. A very big deal indeed! There are some major factors to consider both for and against having him enroll in Kindergarten this fall.

  • He has his social challenges. He may not fit in well with the classroom's expectations of a nuerotypical student.
  • By continuing to have him in Preschool as a peer model, he would have another year to develop those skills to behave more neurotypically, like the other students. (I think I made that word up.)
  • Most parents (according to the Services Coordinator at the school) who start their kid earlier in school end up wishing that they had waited a year for their child to develop more socially. She has never heard a parent say that they wish they had started their child early. (I set her straight on that one. More about that following the "For:" section.)
  • It's Full Day Kindergarten. He still naps nearly every day. On the way home from school on the bus.
  • He would be one of the very youngest in the Kindergarten classroom.
  • He is on grade level with the Kindergarten students where they are right now. If I wanted to drop him in Kindergarten, he has the academic knowledge to keep up with them right now.
  • If we wait another year, he could well be at a mid-1st grade level when he starts Kindergarten. I am afraid that if he is too far ahead of the curriculum, he will be bored and more likely to have behavioral issues out of sheer boredom. It is very difficult to have a child placed in higher level material in our school system. Or as I like to say, "No Child Left Behind (and No Student Achieving Ahead of the Others)". Wrong? Maybe. But it is my opinion.
  • There is no guarantee that he will develop those skills with another year of Preschool.
  • He is a very regimented and routine child. I strongly believe that if he were to go into Kindergarten, he would learn the routine and the expectations and would thrive.
  • He is my youngest child. Having him home in the mornings is one of the main reasons why I am not volunteering in the school during the morning hours. If he is at school, I am free to go into the school to help him during the day as well. I currently do that with other students in the afternoon in second grade. (I'm a volunteer "interventionist" for reading and math.)
  • He would be one of the oldest in the Preschool classroom.
  • I have practiced with him on the lunch room routine. My kids eat breakfast at school, so I started sticking around and letting Jeriah eat with the rest of them. Within a week's time (five days of practicing this routine once each day), he was capable of (on his own!) going into the lunch room, putting his coat on a chair, lining up (and having appropriate line behaviors), getting his milk, choosing what he wants for breakfast (in a timely manner), carrying his tray to the check-out lady, giving her his name so she could ring it in to his account, taking his tray over to another table to pick up a spoon, napkin and straw, then carrying his tray to the table where he placed his coat. Once at the table, he raises his hand for the teacher to come by and open his cereal for him (as do most of the current Kindergartners and even some first graders) and he can open his own milk container. He can pour his own milk on his cereal and then eat in the allotted time frame that they are given. He is able to take his tray up when he is finished, dump his milk and cereal bowl in the "wet" bucket, drop his silverware in the silverware bucket, dump his trash into the trash can and then take his empty tray over to the window. It seems like such a routine thing to go through a cafeteria line, but there are actually quite a few steps involved and for a neuroatypical child, remembering all of those steps and being able to follow through can be overwhelming, especially when you add in the bustle and noise of a hundred other children. Yet, he does extremely well at it all. I think that the same would be true in the classroom.
  • He wants to go to Kindergarten.
So, you see, there are factors to consider on both sides, and while it may look like I have decided for Kindergarten, I am still not 100% sure about it. I'd say I'm probably about 75% sure about it at this point.

Now, as to the part I mentioned above about regretting a child not starting early. I regret not having Cephas tested to enter Kindergarten at four. I just didn't know it was an option. When he started Academy (the K4 class at his private preschool), he was on the same academic level as most beginning Kindergartners. He was beginning to read, knew his numbers, shapes, colors. He had already had a year of preschool at age three, so he was used to work time, lining up, following rules, cooperating with others, separation from family during the day, etc.

But we didn't. We enrolled him in Academy because he was four and a child had to be five by October 15th to enroll in Kindergarten. Cephas wouldn't turn five until January. All was fine and dandy that whole year.

Then he enrolled in Kindergarten. And by the beginning of the Kindergarten year, he was reading on a first grade level, he had figured out not only addition and subtraction, but had mastered multiplication by 2's, 3's, 4's and 5's by simply playing with the numbers in his mind.

We were riding in the car one day and he told me, "Mom! If you have two and then you have two more, then it's four and then two more is six. Then eight and then ten." And I told him that yes, he was right. He thought about it a little bit and then said, "So, if I have two of something and you have two of something and Koren has two of something and Grandma has two and Grandpa has two, then that makes ten!" Again, I confirmed he was correct and told him, "That's right. If there are five people who each have a set of two items, that makes ten items total." He thought about that a little bit longer and then applied the same concept to three items, then to four items, then to five items, so on and so forth until he was satisfied with his new knowledge.

Then he began skip-counting by two until he reached one hundred. Then he did it by threes, then by fours and then by fives. So before my son had ever even started Kindergarten, he knew 1x1 up to 1x100, 2x1 up to 2x50, 3x1 up to 3x34 (because 3x33 didn't get to 100 and he wanted to get to 100), 4x1 up to 4x25, and 5x1 up to 5x20. He KNEW it, had it memorized.

So he was advanced. By a lot. I tried to inform his teacher but got the "Oh, every parent thinks their child is the smartest child in the world" attitude about it. So I decided to let her discover it for herself. She quickly did. But she didn't do anything to try to help him keep advancing. Kindergarten is a leveling grade. The kids who need to catch up to grade level are the ones that get the most effort put into them. The ones that already know the information get to help the teachers and be a good peer model.

By the end of Kindergarten, Cephas was wholly unchallenged and had grown bored with the whole process. He didn't have to try at school and while we continued a process called "After Schooling" (advancing through activities and interests after school) he just didn't really care much for school. In the middle of first grade, the academics caught up to where he was, but he had already stopped trying in school. By the end of first grade, he was no longer even at grade level for reading. It was such a struggle to get him to try in school. From that point on, until this year (in fifth grade), he has not been reading at grade level. He is now thankfully.

But I really feel that all of this could have been avoided by simply having him tested to enter Kindergarten early. I really and truly believe that. And if there is a chance that I am right about it, why wouldn't I want to do the same for Jeriah? Therefore, the dilemma.

Cephas is the child that we think may end up with an Aspberger's Syndrome diagnosis. He has had an issue with social skills since Kindergarten but we have always been able to somewhat manage them. Now, that just really isn't the case anymore.

To have him diagnosed with Aspberger's would honestly be a huge relief. Then we would know that, yes, this is why he does this or that or whatever. And more importantly, he would know that was why as well. If not Aspberger's, then maybe we could just gain additional coping strategies for him and for us as well. It is devastating to him right now. He tries so hard but he has such a lack of impulse control (always has, actually) and just cannot seem to do/remember/follow through on a myriad of other things that his classmates seem to have no problem with.

On Friday, when I talked to Cephas' teacher and gave her the questionnaire from the behavioral psychologist's office, she took it with a smile and said, "I know exactly what this is and yes, I would be most happy to fill this out for you. When do you need it back?" That tells me something as well.

Well, that ended up being a bit more lengthy than my reply to Gail's comment but not by much. What do you think? What would you do if the decision about Jeriah's classroom next year was your decision to make? Don't worry, our decision is not based on your comment but maybe you have a viewpoint that we haven't considered.