I have photos of my kids on proud display in my exam room and workspace, and my patients often kindly inquire about them. When people ask me how old Babyboy is, I tell them, He’ll be five years old at the beginning of the summer.
And then they inevitably ask, Oh! Will be be going to kindergarten in the fall?
Then I hem and haw and, depending on how much they know, answer something along the lines of, We’ll see… or We might hold him back…
It’s not just my patients; it’s the lovely elderly ladies in the grocery store, usually right after I LOVE his curly hair! and friendly neighbors who we don’t see very often, and the woman in the barbershop who trimmed those curls off this week.
Many times, I don’t need to say anything else, people nod and say, Oh, yes, of course, he’s a boy turning five in the summertime. Boys do need more time, don’t they?
And this is true. It’s quite the thing now for parents to hold back their just-turned-five boys for an extra year of preschool, for many reasons, but not the least because even normally developing boys tend to “mature” slower than girls do.
Here we are, with a mildly autistic boy who’s turning five in the summertime. He’s not reliably potty-trained.. actually, he’s almost 100% in pull-ups. We’re 1 for 2 with successful play dates. We’re consulting with a child psychologist for recurrent disruptive behavior issues. Do we really want to rush this kid into kindergarten?
He’s currently in a public integrated preschool program, with a mix of developmentally different and regular kids. I’m very happy that his teachers feel he’s doing well in the classroom. The quarterly reports we receive document excellent progress in academic, speech, and social skills. I know that they feel he can move up to the mainstreamed kindergarten class next year. We have an IEP (Individualized Educational Program, i.e. special ed student thing) meeting next week with all of his teachers… it will be the first time we’ve sat down with them since the fall. Several weeks ago, I let his main teacher know that we didn’t think he was ready to be advanced, that we had concerns. I understood that she felt he was ready, and that we would discuss this at his IEP meeting.
I got a call from an administrator in the school system this week. Actually, she called several times, leaving increasingly strident messages that we needed to register Babyboy for kindergarten.
I called her back yesterday, and explained, “Oh, we haven’t registered him, because he’s not going to kindergarten in the fall.”
She was silent for a few beats, and then said, curtly, “Why not?”
I was sitting in my office, alone, but I could feel the flush rising to my face. “Uh, well, we don’t think he’s ready. We have an IEP meeting with his teachers next week to discuss this.”
“Well, that’s a team decision.” she said.
I wanted to say, No, actually, that’s OUR decision. But this is just someone working in an office at the school, and she’s just doing her job. Not worth getting huffy.
More importantly, I understand that at a public school, parents pushing to keep their children in a special program for an extra year can raise panic. Even in our highly-regarded school district, resources are limited. We see it in the artwork our kids bring home: Babygirl at the private preschool brings home colorful mounted canvases, decorated picture frames with her photo inserted, wooden birdhouses, flowers in painted terra cotta pots. Babyboy at the public school brings home construction paper drawings, maybe something made with popsicle sticks, a plant in a paper cup.
So, I told the woman on the phone: “Listen, we don’t want to create conflict. Honestly, if we don’t see eye to eye with his teachers at the IEP, we’ll just pull him, and send him to private preschool for a year.”
That was more than I had wanted to explain. Other parents in the special-ed know had counseled us to push hard for that extra year, and not to mention that we can send him private, if we have to.
But, I can’t hide my cards. I’m all out there. My kids’ photos are up in my office for all of my patients to see, and I invite their interest. My life is up on this blog, and I invite your interest. I can’t lie worth a damn.
“Oh,” she said. Was that relief in her voice? “Well, I guess I’ll be talking to you next year,” she ended.