Kindergarten Woes - FamilyEducation
Kindergarten Woes
11/02/2009 at 09:29 AM

My 5 year old son is having difficulty in kindergarten.
We worked hard to prepare for kindergarten, having 2 older children I knew what to expect. We taught him his upper and lower case letters, shapes, colors, numbers. We made sure he could use scissors and button his pants. We bought velcro shoes because tying his shoes was still too hard. I had my concerns, accepted he was still a little immature,and braced myself for problems.He didn't want to go, and begged to stay home. With much bribery, I mean with many incentives, we convinced him to go. He decided school was ok and told me all about it. I thought it was gonna be alright. Within the first week I had a parent teacher conference, as my son wasn't listening or following directions, not unexpected as he's a little hard headed. His teacher said he would ignore her or just sit there and smile.Hmm, sitting and smiling? She said he was quiet and respectful, but needed to be told repeatedly what to do.Wow, I was surprised, my son isn't the quiet type. After talking with him about listening and paying attention, and promising more incentives, it got better. He was bringing home smileys on his daily take-home sheets, life was good.Then I got the call, not the call about bad behavior I was expecting, they lost my son! But not to worry, they found him a few minutes after they lost him. I was not relieved. He had been left on the playground, he was hiding in the tunnel.This incident resulted in another conference, in which his teacher told me my son was antisocial, that he had been screaming in the bathroom (because it echos), that he wouldn't speak to her or the other students, that he wouldn't participate in group discussions, that he had trouble staying in line, that his response to most things was a smile, that she was afraid he would wander off if she wasn't watching him, but academically he was doing great. Shocked does not begin to describe how I felt.
I feel I must add that before school I had my son tested for learning disabilities and behavior problems (as dyslexia and ADD run in the family), he has no diagnosable problems. However he is a little behind in maturity, which our doctor said is normal for some boys.
So my sons difficulty seems to be that he is antisocial, and shy in school, which is not how he is at home.He acts completely different at school. I consoled myself that he was relatively happy, he'd come home and talk about school like it was a good thing, and he was keeping up with the rest of the kids academically. But, as of the last 2 weeks it is beginning to effect his work. He is refusing to read aloud for his reading tests. His teacher and I both know he can read the words, but come testing time he just sits and smiles. She has had to give him several zeros because of it.At least once a week I get a comment about his behavior, such as "not listening" or "Not participating in group activities". I also get to speak to his teacher on a daily basis, as I pick him up from school, and she always has a comment or complaint. It's disheartening to hear things like, "He's still not reading aloud for me", "He didn't finish his work today", "He sat alone again today","He needs to work harder on his social skills". I am aware of the problem, and I'm trying to fix it. I just don't know how. He is sweet, talkative and energetic at home. I don't know how to help the shy, quiet, antisocial little boy his teacher describes him as. How concerned should I be? What course of action do I take? Can anyone else relate to a school/home split personality?

Can you take a day off and go observe him? Maybe you could see what actually happens and come up with some understanding.
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Not a bad idea. I've already volunteered for field trips, mostly because I was afraid they'd lose him again. But his behavior with me on a field trip was typical of his "home" behavior. His teacher was a bit stunned as to how he acted with me around.
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Your son's behavior is very much like my daughter's was in school. It took years misery for my daughter while teachers and school personel trying to pound my "square peg" into a round hole to get to the heart of the matter. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and Nonverbal Learning Disorder. Your description of him sitting and smiling is exactally like my daughter. The smile is caused by anxiety, if the child does not force him/herself to smile, then there will be tears. Search out a really good child psychologist and have him evaluated. His behavior changes at home and around you because he is in his comfort zone and not feeling the anxiety he feels at school when he is out of his element. Hope you are able to get him the help he needs. We ended up home schooling which made all the difference for my child.
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2xstepmom... you beat me to it.. glad you posted. I was reading this thinking NLD as well. As 2x said, I would have him tested by a child psychologist who has experience with Autism. Does your son have a very good vocabulary and is he reading? I was told when my son was tested for NLD that these children are often misdiagnosed as having ADHD, because some of the characteristics of NLD are hyperactivity and innatentiveness (usually a slow processing speed which makes them look like they aren't paying attention) and/or anxiety/depression. Poor social skills also goes along with NLD and being lost also goes along with it. Look NLD up on this site and see if it fits your son. Good luck and let us know what you are finding out. Only
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Thank you. I've never heard of NLD but it sounds very much like what my son is going through. I'll be contacting his doctor today to see where to go from here.
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I've set up an appointment with a child psychiotrist.We go next week. I wonder why his teacher hasn't suggested an evaluation through the school. She has no problem telling me about my son's social issues, and when he refused to read his reading test she made him flash cards. She's called me on several occasions to discuss his behavior and lack of participation.
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Unfortunately, many teachers do not have training in spotting Autism spectrum disorders. It is up to the parents to advocate for their children in most cases. Personally and professionally, I have seen that even after a child's diagnosis you will have to continue to be a contant presence in the school to make sure your child's needs are being met.
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I was web surfing during lunch and ran across something that caught my attention. Selective Mutism. It's an anxiety disorder. Where they won't speak in certain social situations. My son reads well, connects letters to sounds, can count to 100, he can run jump etc, he picks up facial expressions just fine, and even knows some sign language. He's typically not shy or quiet except at school.At school he does not talk, he may whisper, or just smile. Has anyone had experiance with a child with selective mutism? I'll be mentioning it at his appointment.
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I think all the suggestions on here are really good. You, at on pt, asked how you can help your son. I think everything you're doing is right. I also have a son who has trouble socially. In his case, b/c he doesn't communicate well, he acts out by getting touchy, jumpy and in your face. Sometimes he annoys the other kids, and I have to often remind him to keep his hands to himself. Instead of communicating verbally (which he can do), he may chase the other kids pretending to be a monster. This happens quite often. I find that play dates have helped my son quite a bit. When it's one on one, he does best. Also, I try to organize activities along w/ free play, so I can be there to teach my son how to best socialize. There's a book called, Social Stories by Carol Gray. It includes a number of examples that teach children how to act appropriately in social settings. There's also an online company called Sandbox Learning Co. It too has varies stories that can be personalized to teach your child about various different social situations. Overall, as a parent, I find that the best teaching tool is to expose my son to social settings, b/c if he's not in them, how is he going to ever learn how to act appropriately? Look into community activities, sports and other avenues that can help your child to socialize and build his confidence. Boy Scouts is great for that. So is the YMCA, Karate and swimming to name a few. I hope my suggestions help. I wish you and your son all the best. Please keep us posted on how you make out at his dr visit. Good luck.
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They rescheduled the appt till this upcoming tuesday. Which has given me more time to worry and question myself, my son's issues and his teachers words. Progress reports came home friday, and my son is having academic difficulty in reading math and handwriting. No issues with behavior, simply because being quiet and extraordinarily shy aren't issues for his teacher.She's fine with him being introverted. Anyway I'll hopefully have some answers and reassurances by tuesday. Though I know this appt is only step one, I hope it's the first step in the right direction.
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Thank's for the update, let us know what happens. Your comments and advice have been appreciated and hope you will stay around to help others.
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So we saw a therapist and did intake. We scheduled 2 more appointments. The therapist said it sounds like anxiety. He'll see a psychiatrist in a month and the therapist in a week. So basically we're on our way to a diagnoses, but beyond that, I now have people in my son's life who's priority is to help him through his issues with school.
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You are off to a good start! Glad the intake went well. Were you given any specific suggestions to help with your son's school issues?
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That's great that you have things scheduled. Even though what you hear may somewhat upset you, it will allow you to know what is going on and how to solve or deal with the problems with your son. Better to know then to be wondering. Glad to hear you are getting help for you and your son... good job mom! Hang in there and let us know how you make out. Only
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Update: After a couple appointments with the child psychologist my son was diagnosed with mild anxiety issues. We went on to weekly therapy sessions, where he talked to his therapist, drew pictures, played games, etc.He warmed up to her quickly, and was himself by the 2nd appointment. Within those 2 sessions she felt a trip to school was in order.He had described and drawn his teacher as scary and with no issues with his behavior at home she felt she needed more information as to why his teacher was so scary. She sent a case worker to observe my son at home and to school to see exactly what his behavior was like in both environments. Anyway to make a long story short, his teacher was intimidating him. When he didn't do what he was told she would confront him in an unfriendly way...There were other things as well, but we've addressed his teacher on how she should handle him.Discussed at length his issues and gave her tools to use. She's older and "set in her ways", so it's not working. And I tried to swap his class, but can't. But we are currently in the process of moving, so he'll be in a new school soon, and we just have to deal with our current situation as best we can.
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Glad you got to the bottom of the situation. Too bad for your son and other students that the school system will keep a confrontational teacher. Hope things go better at the new school.
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I am just reading through this now...and I want to tell you that I am a kindergarten teacher with a child with selective mutism in my classroom. I have never had a child with this diagnosis before, so I just read what limited information I could find out about it. She had the diagnosis before I met her. When I met her before school started I was very worried--she just smiled at me and didn't say anything. I talked to her preschool teachers (our school is a small private pre-school to 2nd grade) and they said she had never talked but did her work. Hmmm...anyway, the first day of school she didn't talk and I didn't make a big deal about it. I was worried--how can I teach and assess in things like reading when everything with her is not just non-verbal--it is non communicative? But I didn't show her my worry and just talked to her like I was hearing an answer. She just smiled. By the end of the week she was interacting--no words, but non verbal body language--nods, etc. By the end of the second week she was answering questions. By the following week she was initiating questions. By the third month of school she was amazing--my biggest problem was (and still is) that she calls out so much and is so bright that I need her to wait for the other kids to have a chance to talk and give an answer!! Wow!! She is also very popular now and gets along well with everyone--she interacts with them all and asserts herself positively (in preschool she apparently just clung to the teacher). I started thinking her diagnosis was crazy and she was just shy but then I saw her at a big evening Christmas program we had...and she was back to just smiling when I saw her. Of course she was back to normal the next day. Last week we had another special program and I expected her to be like that but she wasn't--she acted extremely shy but not that unmoving smile--she talked in small sentences and would use non-verbal communication. Anyway, I am not an expert in selective mutism! But from my experience she has benefited immensely from being in a small class (10 kids) in a small school (no crazy lunchroom). I am not a pressure type of teacher so she probably has benefited from that too. I also have a fairly mellow class this year--my boys are not as active as I have had in the past! In her preschool class she was in 2 teacher class with more students and more active boys so that may have caused some more anxiety too. I hope all goes well with your son and if my limited experience says anything you can find a good match for him.
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Teachers cannot legally "diagnose" problems - for many reasons. We can only simply provide parents with observations. And while, we can refer children, perhaps your son's teacher thought that most of the issues he was experiencing had to do with maturity. Kindergarten has such a range of skill sets, schema, and physical and emotional stages, that it is often difficult to put your finger on what and how a child should be acting. Each child is different, and each day is different. It definitely takes time for us to understand how your child clicks. Kindergarten is hard - everything we need to learn gets its basis in K. If your child's teacher didn't care about your son, she would not be communicating with you in the first place.
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I teach kinder and it makes me a little sad to hear that you mostly hear comments and concerns. This happens more times then you think and there are programs out there to help him. Our district has something called PALS. It helps children of like anti social abilities learn to join in and make friends in a safe place. They get to go back to their own class and teach their friends. It's awesome! The teacher just needs to put in a request. Most districts have these programs but they are not always called the same thing. It is possible he has NLD but don't jump on it. Kinder can be incredibly overwhelming and over stimulating for some kids. Especially boys who are not mature yet. This is a huge reason why it's not a required grade. Their frontal lobes aren't fully formed. Some kids just take more time. His teacher should try a behavior plan for him to help with good choices.
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I didn't read your update. That hurts my heart if she truly is harsh with your son. I'm so big on making their first year a safe and positive place. I pray his next teacher is more loving. As for the selective mute I have one this year. It took her five weeks to talk to me. I was very sweet to her and told her everyday that I was her friend and safe. It just took her time. Now she decides when she wants to talk. The teacher just needs to accept this and reason with him when it's important. Any communication is communication. While testing her I ask her to draw things or show me visuals. If its serious I calmly tell her why talking is important and can usually get her to do so if I stay calm. I think with this type of child you need someone patient and not someone demanding. I have learned I can't make her talk. The more I push the more they push away. I refered her to the councilor and she meets in a group once a week and loves it.
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UPDATE*** My son is now in 3rd grade... In 1st grade he continued to struggle with testing and timed assignments. His teacher was wonderful and worked with him to help him get his work done. But it was obvious he was struggling. Again she had praised his intelligence but he was still anti social, unorganized and had issues staying focused.- Second grade- Within a week of starting 2nd grade his teacher pulled me aside and we talked about my sons issues... She told me how to go about getting an IEP, and told me to google Asperger's syndrome.- Autism. My son is autistic. With his teacher's help we finally found our answer. He was diagnosed with High Functioing Autism. It used to be called Aspergers.- We had never considered Autism, my son has no issues with eye contact, he is loving and never meets a stranger, he didn't fit the profile for what we thought autism was. Now we know better.
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Hello AlabamaX3, I just wanted to wish you luck and my best wishes to help you take your child through the most appropriate doctor as well as treatment so that he gets well soon and socializes like everyone else. Do keep us posted.
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***Update March 2016, My son is now in middle school. He is happy and well adjusted. Looking back, now that I know what a autism is, it was obvious. The problem was the definition of Autism is skewed to look negative from the outside. My bright, kind, social son just didn't fit the mold for what I, his doctor or most of his teachers thought Autism was. My son is highly intelligent, kind, loving and compassionate. He has no problems with eye contact or physical touch. He is autistic. He has some sensory issues, he has shut-downs. My son struggled with fine motor skills, he didn't learn how to ride a bike till this year (he learned how to ride a bike! He prefers Velcro or shock cord to regular shoelaces. He has horrible handwriting. He is an amazing artist, who can draw anything and make it look realistic.
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***Update March 2016, Continued... Looking back at our struggle I see how far we have come and how we need to go to spread autism awareness AND understanding. Knowing my son is/has HFA (High Functioning Autism) helps us understand his needs better. We have an IEP at school every year to discuss what he needs to be successful in school, and at home we listen when he says a certain color light makes it hard for him to do homework. My son is happy and well adjusted and loves to tell people about his autism and how stereo typing people on the Autism Spectrum can lead to misunderstanding and misdiagnosis.SO for anyone who comes across these posts and reads all they way to the end, I hope you find something helpful or hopeful.
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6 years later-Looking back at this now, makes me furious. She was literally so cruel to him he would have shut-downs. The "other things" I mentioned were discovered by the therapist's case worker who told me the teacher had been punishing my son and not telling me. He was a nervous wreck and he stimmed nearly constantly. He chewed holes in his shirts or twisted a bracelet round and round his wrist and the teacher would smack his hand or put him in a corner for it, so he started picking at a corner of his desk until it chipped and she paddled him for it-without permission! Once the therapist got involved we had a meeting with the principal and she was reprimanded. After that she was better with my son. Mind you this teacher was in her 70's and had no experience with Autism so some aspects were understandable. Others were not.
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