Counting down to getting some answers

Mike started his third week in 1st grade today and already the school year has been a rollercoaster of emotions.

Before kindergarten ended, Mike was assigned to a 1st grade teacher with a PhD in autism. I e-mailed her a few days before the school year ended and she gave me advice for getting Mike ready for 1st grade and she had a summer workbook delivered to Mike in school.

I was walking on clouds that Mike would have a teacher who understood students with special needs. Then, I began falling through the clouds when I learned Mike’s teacher was promoted to principal of another district elementary school.

I was so upset to learn that Mike wasn’t assigned to the other 1st grade teacher known for working well with students with special needs. So at the school open house, I asked the principal why Mike was assigned to Mr. Andrews.

The principal told me Mr. Andrews promoted students who had focus issues like Mike successfully to the next grade. Mike knows his 1st grade teacher from joint kindergarten activities and Mr. Andrews seemed enthusiastic at the open house.

He gave parents a form to fill out and I put down Mike’s focus issue on the list of concerns so he knew on day one that this issue needs to be addressed. About every day after school, I asked Mike whether he was working on his own and he said he did his own work.

Recently, he was getting defensive why I was asking about whether he was independent in class. I was thinking he was getting more independent until I saw the school district’s summer evaluation of him for a learning disability, which he doesn’t have.

The details written by his kindergarten teacher made me wonder whether he really became more independent this school year. I e-mailed Mr. Andrews to tell him about his neuropsychological evaluation from an outpatient therapy group on Sept. 16.

I asked Mr. Andrews about Mike’s ability to stay on task and work independently. It was such a disappointment to hear a few hours later that Mike is still in the same situation of lack of focus and neediness as last year.

Mike got his first frowney face in elementary school today for being off task, not paying attention and needing redirecting. So I will be dreading the report Mr. Andrews will write for Mike’s evaluation on Sept. 15.

The next day, hopefully, will be a day of answers and solutions for a kid who loves school but just can’t focus.

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Promotion to first grade!!!!!

I have been nervously awaiting Mike’s report card for the last term. I was wondering how Mike would be marked for progress in the different areas of reading, writing, math and science.

I was shocked when I looked at the bottom and saw “Promoted to grade 1 for 2014-2015 school year”. The profanities were running through my head.

Just several weeks ago, I was sitting in the principal’s office about a remedial program to hold back Mike. Then two weeks later, Mike’s teacher told me that Mike was academically ready for first grade but then expressed concerns about his social-readiness.

I was expecting to see “Recommended for remedial program” on his report card. Of course, the teacher never informed me that she changed her mind about Mike’s placement for next year. Three weeks ago, I received a form that stated Mike was not developmentally ready for first grade and was recommended for the remedial program.

It was my choice to have Mike enter that program, move onto first grade or repeat kindergarten. Last week, I finally submitted the form to request Mike be placed in first grade.

I am still somewhat nervous about first grade for Mike, who must somehow learn addition and subtraction over the summer. He also needs to memorize how to write numbers past 12 and count to 100.

Maybe a learning disability in math is the cause. We finally got two appointments to start his learning disability evaluation in math yesterday. Sadly, the first appointment requires Mike to miss the first half of his third day of first grade. Then he will miss an afternoon of school in early September.

So I am continuing to work hard with Mike every night on his math skills, sentence writing and reading comprehension. He has the enthusiasm that will help him catch up soon with his peers. I hope to have answers about why he has issues in math in early fall and hopefully Dr. Henderson will work hard to help Mike progress in math.

This experience with kindergarten has proven that boys with summer birthdays can be successful as long as parents believe in their children and work hard to help them. We need to believe in our boys.

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Going ahead with first grade nervously

The drama of this school year has not ended. Originally, my plan was to put Mike in first grade and have the remedial program as a safety net if he needs to fall back.

But now it turns out the school district cannot convince enough parents to put their kids in the remedial program. The district had plans for two classrooms but it doesn’t appear as if it has enough students to run one remedial classroom.

This situation is a real shame for Mike and the other students. The students enrolled in the remedial program are not guaranteed they can attend the program. Then, the parents will have to decide whether their child should repeat kindergarten or move onto first grade.

But I am happy to learn Mike has been assigned to a first grade teacher with a Ph.D, Dr. Henderson. That is giving me hope that she could have the knowledge in dealing with a variety of student issues.

Today, I volunteered for an activity day at Mike’s school and met a mom whose son is in Dr. Henderson’s class this year. The mom said the Dr. Henderson gives lots of work to students so they are constantly busy and learning. I also heard positive words about her from the principal, who would pick Dr. Henderson for his own kids. I had another first grade teacher in mind.

I have e-mailed Dr. Henderson this afternoon to ask for suggestions in preparing Mike in spelling, writing and math over the summer. I am anxious to see whether she will find time to write back before her school year ends next week.

Mike will be joined by seven classmates from his current kindergarten class in Dr. Henderson’s class. I hope being among more mature students, instead of the least mature students of his age group, will help develop his social skills.

Meanwhile, I hope to get an appointment in August to have Mike evaluated for possible learning disabilities. I had the district evaluate him to see whether his issues in the classroom are connected to learning disabilities.

However, the district doesn’t evaluate students to determine whether learning disabilities are causing issues in students. I made it clear to the district that is why I wanted the evaluation.

So the wait for answers continue. My insurance company won’t approve a learning disability-related evaluation unless a child is at least 6 years old. So hopefully, Mike will get an appointment close to the start of school when he turns 6.

I will keep working with Mike to give him the advantage he needs for first grade. He’ll be interacting with kids as much as possible over the summer. So I hope Dr. Henderson will work closely with me to give Mike every chance to succeed as a young student in first grade.

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Doing my homework for the new school year

I am so happy I made time to volunteer for Mike’s school’s book sale. I became my younger tenacious self and took advantage who was standing before me.

After my son’s class left the book sale, two other classes rolled in. So here were opportunities I do not have in the time of locked down schools. I approached two teachers- a third-grade teacher and a fourth-grade teacher- about my son’s situation of academic readiness and lack of maturity.

Both teachers told me that they really could not tell the difference between the students who are younger from the ones who are older. They naturally told me to consider Mike’s teacher’s recommendation.

The fourth grade teacher was the most enthusiastic and open-minded. She said to see how Mike matures over the summer and that students can mature a lot in just one month.

Then, Mike’s gym/health teacher came in to pick up papers. I also drilled her about how Mike compares to his peers. Mike is behind in gross motor skills but otherwise he blends in  with his peers in maturity and academically.

I have one more opportunity to get input from a teacher before school starts in August. Mike is attending a summer reading program in July so that teacher will get my questions about Mike’s maturity and where he will be better placed in the fall.

I know many people will tell me to let my son mature another year in the program the school district has created for students who are not ready for first grade. But what if my son matures over the summer? I want to give Mike every chance to move on with peers of his kindergarten class.

If I place him in first grade and it doesn’t work out well in the beginning, I will pull him out and put him in the remedial program. I am not going to watch my son struggle and fall behind just so he follows the pack.

I am brave enough to consider first grade for my summer birthday boy because he reads well and works hard while not getting frustrated with school. Once a child gets frustrated, school is no longer fun and becomes a struggle. Mike loves to learn and he still wants to work every night with me on reading, writing and math.

How many 5-year-olds beg for educational activities at bedtime? If this doesn’t show Mike’s maturity for learning, I don’t know what else it says about Mike.

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Academically ready for first grade but………..

I went into shock a few days ago when Mike’s kindergarten teacher told me that Mike is academically ready for first grade. So what happened in the two weeks since I met with the principal?

I don’t know. But I know his teacher still thinks he is not mature enough for first grade right now. She made it clear it was my decision on where to place Mike for the next school year.

This new twist started when I e-mailed the teacher about sending home Mike with worksheets where he is required to count in patterns of 2s, 5s and 10s. I, naturally, asked the teacher whether Mike could go to first grade next if I fixed his math struggles over the summer.

She acted dumb about the worksheets I wanted for Mike in her responding e-mail message. My husband got ticked, sent her an e-mail message with being very direct about the worksheets I was requesting and that she answer my first grade question.

So, the next day following this e-mail drama I volunteered for Mike’s school’s book fair during the time slot that included Mike’s class visit. I started off simple when I first saw Mike’s teacher.

Mike came home with a small piece of paper with something that appeared to be access for an online program. I asked whether she gave Mike that information and she didn’t. Then I approached her again about whether Mike cries too much in school because he told me he cries for me in school and that he cried in school the previous day when a balloon popped during an assembly.

Then somehow the conversation moved onto my question about first grade for next year. Mike would do fine in first grade reading and okay in first grade math, get the help he needed and would need me to help him at home. But Mike’s teacher is worried his maturity would be a problem.

She claimed that she would be e-mailing the principal to set up a meeting with me. I don’t have any interest in meeting with this woman again and I know it sounds reckless and irresponsible. Mike made some academic miracle in two weeks and she didn’t think it was important enough to inform me.

Mike’s teacher is going to put a fake smile on her face again in another meeting. I can’t do fake again. I told the principal about how she hasn’t initiated much communication with me and didn’t answer the e-mail message I sent her before the school year started so she knew about Mike’s background with developmental delays and the interventions done to help him.

Boy, the first impression of this teacher was so true for the entire year. She is not a communicator and did not work with me to help Mike as we could have.

Mike’s preschool teacher, Mrs. Stevens, went beyond the call of duty for a student who hasn’t been her student all school year. Mike’s kindergarten teacher offered him one worksheet to practice writing numbers at home. That’s the only help she offered him at home.

Mrs. Stevens bought him a dinosaur set and a patterns activity set to help him understand patterns. She also gave me worksheets two or three times during the school year to help Mike with math.

One teacher can really make a difference. The one whose job it was to put her whole heart in helping Mike succeed this year just let me down. The one whose job ended a year ago to help my son succeed in school gave me hope.

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Slowly adjusting to Mike being held back for next year

Mike is not repeating kindergarten next fall but he is not going to first grade, either. His kindergarten teacher, along with the district’s other kindergarten teachers, have been working on an in-between program.

I have agreed to allow Mike to enter this new program in the fall, with the condition that he be evaluated no later than three weeks into the program to see whether Mike could move onto first grade. The principal offered an evaluation in the first month of school and I will regret not taking up on the offer.

The evaluation will give me a reality check. I will be upset if the answer about first grade is another “not recommended for Mike”. Still, it is worth having some hope.

Last May, Mike ended preschool without knowing his letter sounds and recognizing the first sounds of words. He wasn’t really ready for kindergarten with the material he mastered in preschool. Mike was prepared for kindergarten in phonics when the summer ended.

I am in full gear, getting Mike ready to recognize his numbers and understand number patterns so he can do simple addition and subtraction on his own. Each school morning, I sing numbers in 2s, 5s, and 10s in the car.

Mike has his 10s down pretty good and knows how to count in 5s up to 30 now. He struggles with counting in 2s.

Yesterday, I got him Common Core-aligned workbooks for first grade. His class next fall will have kindergarten and first grade material so these workbooks really will get him ready for his next class.

Mike responded well to completing a worksheet on counting in 5s. I have three and a half months until school starts again. This is enough time to see whether he can catch up with his peers.

So cross your fingers for Mike. He’s an eager learner whose school doesn’t have the math help that could have made him ready for first grade. Mom to the rescue!

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The question of first grade could be answered soon

I finally had it with my nerves. Mike’s teacher still hasn’t decided on whether he will be promoted to first grade. I really don’t want to pressure her but I want to know whether I am in La La land about Mike going to first grade in the fall.

I have a meeting with the principal in the morning to talk about the options for Mike. Last week, the principal told me the district is starting a new program to retain kindergarteners not ready for first grade. The program will have some first grade curriculum so this is not a complete repeat of kindergarten.

I know so little about this program because I haven’t seen any media reports of this new program. I am wondering whether students from the other elementary schools will come for this program at Mike’s school or if his school will pilot this program.

My biggest concern is whether some kids will have behavioral issues that will affect Mike’s behavior. He already has been affected this school year by two classmates who seem to be in constant trouble.

It is just hard to think that Mike will be held back when he reads so well at home and school. Mike is struggling with recognizing numbers and doing addition and subtraction worksheets. I have three months over the summer to help him on these issues.

After all the efforts I made last summer to get Mike up to speed academically for kindergarten, I was hoping there would be less worrying about whether it was enough and Mike would be mature enough to handle all the academic demands.

I would rather hold Mike back in kindergarten than in first grade. I cannot begin to guess what this meeting will mean for Mike’s future. So I cross my fingers that I can accept whatever is offered as the best option for Mike.

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