Friday, May 9, 2008

Coming full circle

Back in February we were considering the option of taking BOY out of school. He was showing signs of stress: having accidents, chewing on his shirt sleeves, and expressing a desire to not go to school. Until this winter, we had felt really excited about the program and BOY has been at the school for 2 years. He is a young 4 in a Pre-K class, and our concern was that he was being pushed. We also were questioning whether their expectations for him were too high as to where he is developmentally. On the positive side, they were concerned about BOY's stress as well. The Director asked us to consider staying, to try out having BOY go just half days for a while and for their focus to be just getting him back to a level of comfort and ease. They also were open to bringing in an outside consultant, someone whose specialty was preschool aged children and working with teachers in preschool settings. We agreed to give it more time and were happy to work with a consultant.

In March, we met the consultant. She came to our house and spent two hours with us discussing our concerns and getting to know us. Then she went to the school and observed BOY in the classroom setting. She really loved the program, and thought there was a myriad of wonderful things during the day for the children to participate in as well as the class having a great group of teachers. She met with the lead teacher and the Director of the school after her observation and made some suggestions that they could use to help BOY and all the children. I think that BOY's teacher also felt validated by her, because not only is she a former preschool teacher, but she has had a career spanning 30 years with preschool age children.

One of the issues that BOY has is that he gets overwhelmed during the music and movement activity. He has always been sound sensitive. We believe that he has an extraordinary sense of hearing. As a baby he could hear a plane approaching much before we could and while we were immersed in more immediate sounds. My feeling is that because he hears a multitude of sounds acutely, sometimes sounds or music to him can be as if someone were banging symbols directly in his ears. It may be that he has a hard time tuning some sounds out and hears a cacophony of sounds.

On the day that the consultant observed BOY, he walked away during the music activity and started looking at a wall of pictures in the classroom. He was not disruptive. He just took himself away. The teacher tried to reengage him, but he didn't want to return to the activity. The suggestion proposed by the consultant was that instead of trying to get him to reenter the activity, find out why he is leaving the activity by asking him "wondering" questions. I noticed you walked away from the music. I'm wondering if it is too loud for you? She also talked to the teachers about the importance of having a space within the classroom that he can go to for a break, and when he is sitting at circle time perhaps having his back up against the bookshelf so that he feels grounded. Just those small incremental changes have made a huge difference. And they don't put a burden on the teachers, but provide options that make it better for everyone in the classroom. The teachers have been using these suggestions over the last couple of months.

Last week the consultant observed the class again. It was the Week of the Child at school and on that particular day it was Pajama day. All the children wore their pajamas to school and they had breakfast for lunch...pancakes. Not only that, but they got to sit on their cots and eat in bed. It was a huge hit!

BOY is comfortable in school again. And it has really come about, which is very exciting. He is not showing any signs of stress. He is having fun and he's been asking to be able to stay for a full day for weeks now. We are going to try one full day on a Friday at the end of this month to test it out. Then we'll go for a few weeks with one day and then add a 2nd day. We'll keep it at 2 afternoons for now.

On Wednesday, E and I had a final meeting with the consultant, BOY's lead teacher, and the Interim Director. (We will continue to have check-ins with Boy's lead teacher.) It was a very positive meeting in which we discussed ways that we can all help BOY to continue to grow and allow him to help himself. She told us what a pleasure it had been to work with all of us, to observe such a special program, and to have both parents and teachers eager to stretch and grow themselves.

I am feeling excited about next year, as BOY will get a bonus year. A year in which he can be, for the first time, an older child in his class. What will THAT be like? Our focus has been on BOY, but he hasn't been the only one changing. Because of the consultant coming, I am more appreciative of his teachers. Because of the positive changes I've seen in BOY, and because we decided to stick it out, I have been able to see what can happen when you hang in and work things through, instead of leaving. Maybe, the most growth has occurred in me, as I feel we have come full circle...back to a place of appreciation. And perhaps my BOY can do more than I think he can. Parenthood...it is SUCH a journey.


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20 comments:

happygeek said...

That's sooo great.
Glad to see the stress is gone!
It has been so good to follow this journey with you!

Madge said...

my six year old is finishing his second year of pre-K (he just turned six). it's been wonderful for him. both are boys were "held back" which has been the absolute best thing we could have done for them!

Lisa said...

I am so happy for you! BOY and you are lucky to have such great teachers in your lives!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I'm glad it's working out.

Jen said...

That is wonderful! I am so glad that the teachers and director have been open to suggestions, and that everyone benefited from the experience. It's a journey allright, sometimes the bumps in the road cause a bit of whiplash! OW, MY NECK!

Suzanne said...

JCK, as I was reading along I was formulating my response in my mind until I got to the part about a "bonus year". Then a bell went off in my mind.

Years ago, when I was substitute teaching at a private school here, I found that they actually start their children a year older than the standard. I thought about this and it made sense....by giving children an extra year, they are giving them another year to develop intellectually, emotionally, and developmentally. Ironically, I'm betting these kids also do better in school because they are more mature.

Anyway, the real reason I stopped by was to wish you a very Happy Mother's Day!

Suzanne said...

JCK, as I was reading along I was formulating my response in my mind until I got to the part about a "bonus year". Then a bell went off in my mind.

Years ago, when I was substitute teaching at a private school here, I found that they actually start their children a year older than the standard. I thought about this and it made sense....by giving children an extra year, they are giving them another year to develop intellectually, emotionally, and developmentally. Ironically, I'm betting these kids also do better in school because they are more mature.

Anyway, the real reason I stopped by was to wish you a very Happy Mother's Day!

Anglophile Football Fanatic said...

I'm impressed the school took that much outside time to work with him. My son has been the older kid in his class & I've felt a bit unnerved about that situation, too. Parenthood is never easy... I'm so glad he's doing better.

dawn224 said...

wow. this is a wonderful story about what can happen when everyone on the team clicks!

flutter said...

Thank goodness you guys all worked as a team, this is awesome

Jennifer H said...

I am so glad to hear that the end result affirmed your instincts about the right way to maneuver through this whole thing. How great it is that the school and the consultant heard your concerns and worked to help Boy's school experience bend to what he needed. I'm cheering!

HRH said...

So glad and relieved that things are working out. I love that they are letting him have his mini-vacations away from all the activity. I need those occasionally too.

Lisa Milton said...

You are going to be so ready when you get to grade school. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes an advocate to get them through school.

Zack's hearing is very sensitive too. Clapping, high pitch sounds send him over the edge.

It has become easier for him with 'age' but he's always the kid in the crowd covering his ears.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

I'm so happy for you and Boy that it is all working out! I'm also very impressed with your dedication to get to the root of a problem.

Elizabeth said...

Happy Mother's Day.
I'm glad that Boy is doing so well.
Each of us is such an individual. I'm happy for you that this was such a positive experience. Hang in there. Parenthood IS an incredible journey and we ALL get to grow and change!
Pax, Elizabeth

Janet said...

That is wonderful news - it's so great that the teachers and consultant listened to you and were willing to work with you and help BOY.
(And I'm glad to see your smiling face again. Weird, I know, but I missed you somehow.)

barbra said...

I'm so glad you wrote this update. What a wonderful thing you have learned! As a teacher, I am so glad you wrote about this, because people should know that teachers do want to help, but sometimes need some help and insight from the parents. We became teachers because we care about the children, what other reason would there be?
Terrific post.

Mrs. G. said...

I am most happy that the boy is happy-it sure sounds like a great school.

painted maypole said...

oh. so, so glad it's working out for you and the boy!

Purple Teacup said...

I am happy to read all of this. It broke my heart when you first shared this about BOY. The little things make all the difference. The fact that they brought a consultant in is impressive.

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