Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Just a boy who is operating at his own speed


BOY's Pre-K teacher met with us a couple of weeks ago and expressed concern that he was not functioning as well as the other children in his age group. (There are both 4 and 5 year olds in his class. BOY is in the younger range, having just turned 4 in November. The plan is for BOY to get a bonus year by doing Pre-K again next year.)
Some of the examples she gave were:

  • that he speaks out during circle time saying, "Are we done yet? & Is it over?"

  • that he was not able to complete more than 2 step tasks.

  • that sometimes when he was asked to do something he did something else.

Hello! Maybe we are describing a 4 year old here?!

She was open to them learning new ways to connect with him, but also wanted us to consider that he might have an auditory processing disorder.

My GOD, the boy is only 4! And all I see when I look at BOY is the phenomenal growth and maturation that he has had, especially over the last 8 months. When he first started going to daycare part-time, at a little over 2 years old, he couldn't even sit still for a circle time story. He had to sit in his teacher's lap. Then came the next step, which was to sit next to the teacher. Now, he can sit in his spot for the duration of a story, but sometimes has a problem staying for the whole story. At 2 1/2 he had a handful of words. Now, he not only has a huge vocabulary, but is creative in his expressive thoughts and choice of words.


After our meeting, when it had all sunk in, I wanted to say: Shouldn't we gauge his development by his progression, rather than holding him to a standard of comparison to the other children in his age group? And if so, shouldn't we acknowledge what he IS doing, rather than focusing on what he isn't doing? And don't you think that maybe, he could be picking up on these expectations?

Why should a child be judged on his development by his birthdate? Do all of us develop at the same rate? Does a timer go off at 3 or 4 years old and PING we're nailing everything that we're supposed to get? No, I don't think so. Why I should have doubted this, even for a moment, is sad to me. But, I am still taking tentative steps sometimes, with BOY being my first child. And avoiding these parenting pot holes is tough. As I learned almost a year ago, when BOY started potty training at 3 years and 2 months old... every child has to do it at his own pace. Everyone is unique. Potty training will definitely make you check your preconceptions at the door.

But, as a good parent, you certainly want to acknowledge a teacher's concerns. So, we met Monday with the preschool special education group from our local public school district. E, myself and BOY were there for about an hour and a half. The room was a playroom environment, with a conference table at one end where we could sit, and BOY was able to have a free-for-all, with brief periods of directed activity at a table. There was a team of people in the room: a School Psychologist, an Occupational Therapist, a Physical Therapist, and a Speech and Language Pathologist.

The evaluation consisted of: "an interview with the parents, language sample, file review of previous OT & speech/language reports, play-based observations, cognitive, pre-academic, social, emotional, communication, gross motor & fine motor."

Their findings were this: "BOY is developing typically in all domains at this time. Consideration of teacher's/classroom's high academic expectations, and BOY's developmental level."

My findings were this: They thought he was a perfectly normal boy in a school with high expectations. He is active, incredibly creative and imaginative in play. But, there is no mystery or needed diagnosis here. Just a boy who is operating at his own speed, who needs to be recognized for who he is and allowed to be ...himself.

Yesterday was one of those life altering days for me. I learned so much. And every single person on the evaluation team was helpful. I got book recommendations, resources for researching boys, and I now have a new passion... discovering how boys learn differently than girls. And how children assimilate individually, uniquely, as themselves. Most of all, I took away this ...my gut instinct is rarely wrong. I just need the confidence to trust my gut instinct as a mother.


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15 comments:

Jen said...

I also have learned the importance of trusting your gut as a mother. However, I have to say, as a former preschool teacher, this post made me nervous! I remember how hard it was to tell a parent something you knew they wouldn't want to hear about their child. I give you a lot of credit for having him tested, just for your own peace of mind, and I am SO happy with your results! BTW, could I have those book recommendations?

Mary Alice said...

I am very happy that the professional evaluations went well. However, as for the teacher, I have to say that though nerve racking to the parents sometimes, it is better to have an observant teacher alert people to any potential issues she might suspect. The teacher is familiar with the developmental progress expected in a child….I would hate to see a child slip through the cracks and struggle for years because teachers were afraid to identify issues. Professional evaluations are key. She may have high expectations and be overly cautious, but now, because of her you don’t have to wonder.

happygeek said...

YEAH that he's doing fine.
I have an innate fear of pre-schools. I believe that Spud would do terribly (he and boy were twins separated at birth I think). I too belive that boys are so very different from girls and many would so much rather climb a tree, knock down a tower or rescue a princess rather than do circle time.
Go with your gut. Good for you to have him evaluated (becuase honestly, you never know) but I am so glad no further intervention is needed!

Sober Briquette said...

that's good news.

I understand your reaction, but agree with the others who said the teacher was on the ball. I have friends whose children are in various places on the autism spectrum and they've said that the earlier the diagnosis and therapy the better. Of course, not needing it is the best of all. I'm very wary of these "epidemics."

There was a boy in my daughter's preschool who was a December baby. The teachers were actually the ones who said he could move up to Kindergarten, but his mom felt strongly that he'd do better if he had more time in a less structured environment.

I volunteer in the Kindergarten class, and I think even an alien could figure out which children were boys and which were girls, with a brief observation. It was an eye-opener for me, as my son is the younger.

Slow Panic said...

I'm so glad the evaluations went well. I've been through those. My eldest repeated first grade and it was the best thing we could have done for him. he was not ready developmentally. so with boy two we had him to pre-K twice. he's in the pre-K program and will be six in March, but he LOVES it and now there is no pressure on him. at least for my boys this was the best thing, it just gave them time to be boys...

liv said...

this is not a lot of consolation, but after many evals, tests and therapies, I've really developed a good skill. It's called ignoring stupid shit that preschool teachers said.

ex: NO, I don't care that D cut the banana the 'wrong' way. WHO cuts a banana???

Tootsie Farklepants said...

Trusting your gut is the best technique yet. It's also possible that the reason he doesn't sit still for story time is because he needs more stimulating reading material. He's most likely way smarter than the teacher. Hence, her attempts at making him seem 'less than'.

:)

Sharon said...

Good for you for following your instincts but also listening to the teacher and getting a second opinion.

I think it's important to remember that each teacher and class will have different expectations. Boy may very well flourish in his next class. The next teacher may be able to channel all those qualities of his that are of concern to his current teacher.

So hang in there. Follow your instincts and work with the teachers to get the best for Boy and Girl.

Rima said...

It just kills me how overdiagnosed children are these days for simply behaving LIKE CHILDREN! it seems like practically every mother I know has had someone say to them at one point or another that they should have their child checked out for (insert name of "disorder.") I'm so glad that your gut was proven right!

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HRH said...

Amen! Seriously, I couldn't sit still as long as they require. I think it was very telling that his comments were related to the length of the story time...maybe he was just bored. Thank God you found some professionals who were sane and could give you some objective feedback. Boys are just wired differently and often if they aren't into something they are disruptive. This isn't a diagnosis other than typical boy behavior. I think you are on the right track trusting your gut. I am keeping boy #2 out of Kindergarten next year because he is on "island time" and wouldn't be able to conform to expectations even though he is brilliant in other areas. It takes a special child to just go at his own pace no matter where else the world is racing.

jennifer h said...

Good for you, learning to trust your instincts. While I appreciate certain things that have been pointed out in the past about my own children, and have gotten help where warranted, I also think there's too much of a rush to over-diagnose or apply labels where none are needed. Did they give you an Awesome Mom sticker when the eval was over? They should have.

Kyrsten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kyrsten said...

Hey JCK, I understand where you're coming from! We went through a similar experience and were thinking the same thing... our amazing little creature of a son is developing at his own rate! Who sits still for circle time when they didn't choose the book? ;-)
(Thanks for a GREAT post! Sorry I am a newbie here and screwed up my first one.:)

Anonymous said...

I have read your blog for a while now but I had to post to this entry. I feel your pain.
When our BOY's pre-school teacher told us something was 'wrong' and we thought 'you are nuts teach, he's a 3 yr old' we agreed to the testing anyway. Our precocious amazing kid was found to be on the autism spectrum. We could not believe it at first and were in utter shock and rejected it at first. For BOY's sake, we told almost no one about it so he would not be labeled or treated differently by those who knew him well. But within months and after reading some books on the subject, we could see the telltale signs and realized that the teacher and doctors very well could be right. Our BOY is now getting therapy, and all of it is helping him immensely. We are on the learning journey with him too, and loving his uniqueness every step of the way; we are striving to be good at implementing the doctors lessons while letting him be himself and be as unqiue as he can be, should be.

But, thanks to that vigilant teacher our BOY can be taught the skills that come naturally to others and he can go through his elementary years and beyond, and have the chance to grow up and have a "normal" shot at a successful life. That is all we can hope for and offer, right?

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