My youngest son, who is going on nine in August is the sweetest little boy I know. He is thoughtful, caring, considerate, polite, adaptable, shrewd, kind and absolutely hilarious. He is definitely one of a kind and frankly, he has so many endearing qualities that I could never possibly list them all.
In case you missed it, his birthday is in August. In the town we live in the cutoff for the school year is September 1st meaning that if you are born by August 31st, you are eligible to start school at age 5, but if your birthday falls after the cutoff, you have to wait a year. Kids born on say September 2nd (and after, of course) end up turning six while they are in kindergarten while my son was barely five when he started and didn’t turn six until right before he started first grade. He’s been the youngest in his class since he started kindergarten, but my other son – who also has an August birthday- did just fine going to kindergarten so young.
Sadly, it was a completely different story for my little guy.
Before I tell you about what’s going on with school, I want you to know that my son went to preschool for two years prior to starting kindergarten and even though I saw signs that led me to think he might not be ready for kindergarten yet, his preschool teacher insisted he’s do just fine. I should have went with my gut.
He struggled with school (starting in kindergarten) from day one. Mostly it was his lack of focus, but each year that went on he was getting more and more behind in school. In first grade my son was so far behind in reading that he qualified for the Title 1 program, which was individualized help. He got pulled from class, along with two classmates, for reading help several times a week. It took the whole year, but he eventually caught up to the reading level he was supposed to be at.
Even though his father and I are now divorced, we are on the exact same page when it comes to both of our kids. We are both very involved and each year we actively communicated with the little guy’s teachers. In first grade the question of retention came up, but since his reading had improved so much – we sent him on to second grade. The issue of retention came up again at the end of second grade, but we sent him on again and unfortunately, third grade was not a good year for him.
And don’t even get me started on homework. It’s a battle every single day. Sometimes it was the fact that he was so burnt out by the time he got home that he just couldn’t focus enough to get it done. Other times it would be a thousand distractions. Then other times he’d completely forget what he learned in school and would have no idea how to do it. Then I would have to go to watch some YouTube video on how to do it because kids don’t know how to do math the way I learned it.
But back to why third grade was such a bad year for him.
Part of it was my son. He’s the youngest one in his class, so his maturity level is definitely not where it should be, but the focus/attention issues have been really hard for him and there are no signs of it getting any better. The other part was that his teacher went out on medical leave at the end of September and never came back. For months there were substitute teachers in and out of his class and while they are all great, it didn’t do much to help him. My son needs routine & consistency and he was not getting that. At all. In January, his new permanent teacher was hired and since he took over my son has been doing better, but there were still a lot of attention and even behavioral issues.
By now you are probably wondering why we hadn’t had him tested for ADD and the answer is, we did & it’s been a long, hard process. It started when my son was in first grade. We saw that he was struggling with reading and even though he was getting help for that at school, we knew that reading was just part of it. He was really struggling with everything – especially math. Not to mention that the attention issues were getting even more prominent. His dad and I had no idea where to start, so naturally we contacted his pediatrician who sent us two questionnaires to be filled out. One by us parents and one for his teacher to fill out. Based on our answers, the pediatrician said he didn’t fall into any special needs categories. His teacher, his father and myself all scratched our heads at that one, but were told it was probably immaturity and that my son would snap out of it. Ok?
In second grade, his father and I saw the same issues as we did when our son was in first grade – only worse. His teacher put us in touch with the SPED (Special Ed department) at the school and we were told to fill out yet another questionnaire. It was essentially the same as the one we did for the pediatrician, but we went ahead and did it. His father filled out one, I filled out one and our son’s teacher filled out one. Once they were all back, the school scheduled an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting to discuss the results. Let me state before I go any further that the questionnaires they want you to fill out if there is a question of an ADD diagnosis are ABSURD. They are beyond vague and the answers can be very subjective. Apparently I didn’t answer mine the right way and my son was denied services. I truly don’t know how they can gather any sort of accurate information about the child from the questions they ask. Someone really needs to take a hard look at those things and come up with a better way to test these kids.
But I digress.
Fed up, we finally took our son to see a Neuropsychologist in January of this year. We made the appointment last September (of 2015), but there was a long wait to actually get seen by her. Once we did get in to see her, she had to do so many tests that she couldn’t finish them all that day and we ended up having to go back to see her a second time to finish up. By now we’re in February and had to wait for her to go through all the results before his dad & I could get a diagnosis.
It’s now March and his father and I finally get a call to go in and hear the results. I was so nervous that day because I knew in my heart of hearts that there was more to it than immaturity, but part of me was scared that the doctor wasn’t going to find enough to make a diagnosis. Well, she did make the diagnosis of ADD that day and boy was I relieved. This poor sweet boy that’s been struggling for so long was finally going to get some help.
Unfortunately it took the Neuropsychologist three months to get the official report sent out. My ex and I kept calling her and emailing her to get a status on it. We weren’t able to start any of his treatment without it, so we were desperate to get that darn report. Once I had it in hand and saw that it was about 35 pages, double sided, I understood why it took so long. A copy of the report was sent to us (one to me and one to his dad), his pediatrician and the school. Since the report didn’t come through until the end of May, which was essential the end of the school year, it was really too late to salvage the third grade. Between the attention issues and the substitute teachers that my son had for the first half of the school year, his father and I both felt like he was in no way prepared for fourth grade. Fourth grade, as we learned from our older son, is one of those transitional years and it’s hard. I remember my oldest coming home with hours of homework and considering that it had already been taking my little guy hours to complete a worksheet that should have taken 10-15 minutes tops – we felt it would be in his best interest to repeat third grade.
It was a heart breaking decision for me. His father was pretty set on it and while I knew it was in his best interest as far as his education went, I worry about his already low self esteem. I guess we truly won’t know how he feels about it until next September, but his father and I have been telling him that he’ll be a rock star next year because he’ll not only be one of the oldest in the class as opposed to the youngest, but he will already know a lot of the stuff and will be a role model for other kids in his class. So my son will be repeating third grade next year and I am confident that he will have a great year next year.
And don’t worry, we’ve got a treatment plan in place and my little man is going to be getting all the help he needs to be successful.
The moral of the story here is, listen to your gut. If you think there is something going on, it probably is and even if you get shot down, keep fighting for your kids. Get second, third, fourth opinions It’s not easy, but eventually you will find the right person to help you and your child.
And that’s where I am going to leave off for today because if I kept going, I would have a novel here. If you’re wondering what happens next, stop by next week because I am going to tell you all about what the next steps in the process for us were. My ex and I had a busy few weeks of meetings, but things are finally happening and I am so thankful that my little guy is finally getting help.