Friday, September 5, 2014
Over the summer, Justin and I made the extremely difficult decision to keep Ian in kindergarten for another school year. We first started talking about it last school year during spring break. Ian's annual IEP was looming, and I told Justin we should probably prepare ourselves for the possibility that the school would suggest retention.
As it turned out, the school wasn't even considering retention for Ian, and when I brought it up in the IEP meeting, we were told the district "doesn't really do that" - Ian was slotted to go on to first grade and be "taught to his level" by the special education department.
While it was true that Ian's academic performance was on par to continue to the first grade, his social/emotional level and behavior clearly wasn't. He was having a hard time controlling his impulses - hitting those that come within his reach, not following directions with his wheelchair, and needing constant prompts to stay on task. I feared his behaviors would keep him from thriving in first grade. Not only would the work be harder, but more would be expected behaviorally, and it didn't really seem like he was there yet. I worried that because of his behaviors he would be pulled from the classroom to work individually with the special education teacher more, and that goes against the inclusion experience we're pushing for with him in school. The more he gets pulled out of the classroom to do his work, the less he'll be seen as a classmate by his peers.
We spent the spring and most of the summer discussing both scenarios. I reached out to other spina bifida parents who had insight into kindergarten retention, and found that it is not at all uncommon, especially with boys. We also talked to our families and friends who are close to Ian, many of which are teachers and could provide valuable insight and advice on the subject. Finally, in July, we took Ian to have a second neuropsych evaluation, and discussed retention thoroughly with that doctor. She felt like retention was appropriate for the same reasons we did - Ian displays obvious social/emotional immaturity, and he is also on the young side for the school year (he had just turned 6 on the second to last day of school).
So, feeling as though we had thought the decision through completely and gotten all the recommendations we could, we returned to the school and informed them of our decision to request that Ian stay in kindergarten, and in the same classroom, for another school year. The school was hesitant to allow him to stay with the same teacher and classroom as last year, but we argued that his teacher had already spent an entire school year working with him and getting to know what he does/doesn't respond to when learning, and we didn't want to start that whole process over with a different kindergarten teacher. We also thought that Ian would gain confidence from coming into a classroom and routine he was already used to - if it was going to be a whole new teacher and a whole new classroom routine, then he might as well just go to first grade. Our desire was to keep things as much the same as possible so that Ian could continue to grow and make progress in a setting that was working well last year.
His final placement came down to the day before the Back to School Fair, but after quite a bit of urging, we were granted the same kindergarten teacher as last year. I was so relieved - I was finally able to stop second guessing our decision and be at peace with the fact that this was the right decision for Ian. We explained to him that he would be going to kindergarten again, and though the kids in his class would be new friends, his teacher would be the same. His response was, "Yay!".
This week was his first week back, and it sounds as though it's going well. Ian's teacher wrote me to say he seems comfortable in the classroom, and the children have been completely accepting of him. I know this was right for Ian, and I feel confident that this extra time in kindergarten will lead to greater success down the line.
His school pictures came home today - isn't he adorable?!