It’s about that time of year that many of us who have children go for Round 2 of Parent-Teacher Conferences. It is usually at this point in time where a lot of decisions are made about your child’s academic progress. Having a background in education, I feel quite comfortable in this area. But I feel it is a double edge sword.
Teaching and children have always been a passion of mine since I was in elementary school. I would spend hours playing school with my stuffed animals and dolls. When a teacher was cleaning out her closet in the classroom, I would take as much as I could. I will never forget the teachers who I truly aspired to be like~ Sr. Marjorie & Sr. Joanne (1st grade), Miss Kenna (3rd grade), & Miss Beck (8th grade). These women were not only amazing teachers but they truly cared about their students. They developed a relationship with their students and truly got to know their students as individuals.
I taught for almost 9 years before having my first child on the elementary level. If you add in my experience in a preschool setting prior to and after having my daughter, I am close to 12 years. I taught all ages~ birth to 5th grade. I taught all abilities~ regular education, learning support, and emotional support. My absolute favorite grade level was 1st grade! LOVED 1st grade! So much happened in such a short amount of time and the students’ enthusiasm was contagious! My 1st year teaching I had 35 first graders and I knew everything about each of them. As a matter of fact, I still keep in touch with some of them~makes me feel so old! But I can honestly say that I learned so much and enjoyed teaching on all levels and abilities. Here is where the double edge sword comes in. I knew what a child should be capable of on every level. I could recognize the signs of a struggling child.
I have been blessed with 3 healthy and intelligent children. They all developed normally and reached milestones within the proper age range. My oldest daughter reached milestones much earlier than my other children. But she was the oldest and I was able to do more things with her. My youngest daughter reached milestones at the same rate as my older children. My son, however, reached all the same milestones with the exception of speech. I knew early on there was something not right. But in my husband’s words “Take your teacher’s hat off. He is fine.” But I knew he was lagging behind. It wasn’t until one fall day that my husband realized what I was seeing too. He had taken the kids over to his parents’ house and the front door was locked. They went in through the back door. My in-laws asked how they got in and my son said “akc or”. They asked him to repeat himself 3x’s and finally on the 3rd time my son pointed to his back and their door. Everyone realized he was saying “back door”. When they came home, my husband looked at me and said “Do what you need to do.”
This began the long process of getting my son early intervention services. This is when we learned he had a developmental delay. This is when we learned his school experience would be far different from that of our oldest daughter. It is a very overwhelming process whether you are familiar with education or not. But it is a process that no one should ever decide to forego because of the amount of information and amount of paperwork you need to provide. When I taught and I saw a “red light” with one of my students I would be honest with the parents. I would let them know up front that it is a time-consuming process that could lead to no answers. But it is a process that if there is any doubt or any concern needs to be completed for the child. I always would say what is the worst thing that could happen? The worst thing is we were wrong and we move forward. The best thing is we were right and the child was given the help and services needed so they could be successful.
When my son was in Pre-K, I remember saying to his teachers (who one of them had my oldest daughter) that in January if they told me he was ready for kindergarten I would be shocked. There was no shock. He was not ready maturity wise nor academically. It was the shortest parent-teacher conference. His teachers were so nervous to tell me! I remember laughing and reminding them what I had said from the very beginning of the school year. Many people had mixed reactions to my decision. Some were shocked that he was not ready which shocked me. I remember looking at them and thinking You do hear him speak? I had others think I was intentionally holding him back for sports! Yes I said sports. Apparently people do this. I simply responded as politely as I could that I was not thinking about his athletic career at the age of 5 when making this decision.
I can’t say this enough….THIS WAS THE BEST DECISION I HAVE EVER MADE AS A PARENT! My son had no idea that he was being “held back”. As a matter of fact, his best friends were staying another year for the same reason. So to him it was all good! The extra year gave him another year to mature. It gave him another year to build his confidence. It gave him another year to receive speech services that I can honestly say because I am on year 2 of the district services, that gave him unbelievable skills but most importantly consistency. You are probably thinking why is she sounding like she is not thrilled with district provided services? I am grateful that he is provided speech services now that he is in elementary school. I will just save pros and cons for another time.
My son is now half-way through 1st grade. He has an amazing teacher. As a matter of fact, he has been blessed with amazing teachers his entire academic life thus far. He has been blessed with teachers who have taken the time to truly know him and truly care about him. In a few weeks, I will have his 2nd round of parent-teacher conferences. I am fully prepared for what will be said about his progress. But my “teacher hat” is on and I know he has a long road ahead of him.
If you are thinking your child may have a developmental delay or are concerned with other educational issues, it is best to inform yourself. The more information you learn, the better it will be for you and most importantly your child. But where do you begin?
1. If your child is in a school program, please set up a meeting with your child’s teacher. This is the one person, besides yourself, that spends a huge amount of time with your child. Your child’s teacher is your greatest resource.
2. If your child is not in a formal educational setting, contact your local Intermediate Unit. If you are not sure, contact your school district and they should be able to provide you with the information.
3. Talk to your pediatrician. Although they don’t know your child as well as you do, they are still a valuable resource for programs that are available to you and your child.
4. DOCUMENT everything! I can’t stress that enough. With today’s technology, it is very easy for you to simply entered it into your “notes” on your iPhone or record something for later.
5. Of course the internet is a valuable resource. But I feel it is overwhelming and can lead you to think your child has more “issues” than they truly do. So with that said, be cautious with the information you read on the internet. But once your child has a formal diagnosis, the internet is extremely valuable in finding activities, strategies, computer games, apps, etc to use with your child.
6. Trust your gut. You know your child better than anyone.
7. Try not to compare your child to your other children and peers. It is very hard to do this but so important. Every child is different and every child developments at different speeds.
8. Prepare yourself for the results of an evaluation. It is hard to hear that your child is struggling or has a learning disability, delay, or any other diagnosis. But it is, also, important to prepare yourself for a result that states your child does not qualify for any services or doesn’t meet the criteria of a child who has “xyz”.
9. Be your child’s advocate. You are the one person who will need to stand up for your child’s rights. You are the one person who will be able to get your child the help he/she may need if they do or don’t qualify for services.
10. And this is a given~ love your child for who they are and celebrate all the successes. They all have it in them. Some just need that something extra!
Always loved this quote~