Why My Child Almost Failed Kindergarten – And Yours Doesn’t Have To

Why My Child Almost Failed Kindergarten - And Yours Doesn't Have To - jenniferajanes.com

*The required FTC disclosure: I am a Better Beginnings ambassador. I get paid to write an article for them once a month, but the best thing is that I get to learn, and in turn share with you, great information about how kids learn and helping them learn through play. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I believe in the mission of Better Beginnings – quality early education for all.

Why My Child Almost Failed Kindergarten – And Yours Doesn’t Have To

*This is part of the Learning Through Play series. While it’s not specifically about play, I think it’s an important story to tell. Watching your child play, and seeing how he plays, can be critical to future academic success.

My bright, bubbly daughter almost failed kindergarten. I felt as though I had two children in one – the little girl I interacted with every day and the one who struggled beyond all reasoning when books, pencils, and paper were placed in front of her. My daughter’s kindergarten year was very difficult. We survived through diligence – hers and mine, constant assessment and readjustments to the curriculum and assignments we were using, and tears and frustration on more days than I care to remember.

And it could have been avoided if I had paid attention. I should have watched her play more closely. She was content to play alone, and she played with her sister. But there was no imaginative play, and everything went according to some script she had in her mind. If another child deviated from the script (even though they didn’t know that there was one), she had a meltdown. She wandered the periphery of the playground, not playing with others because they wouldn’t do what she wanted them to do the way she wanted them to do it. Under extreme stress, she would line up objects or spin in our living room. She refused to wear anything but dresses or skirts and chewed the erasers of pencils until she had bitten through the metal. She chewed the sleeves of her long-sleeved shirts until they were soaking wet. We had difficulty understanding some words because of the way she articulated certain letter combinations. She couldn’t make eye contact for more than a few seconds at a time. It was right in front of me, and I missed it all.

I did see that she showed no interest in numbers, letters, shapes, or colors (except the color pink), that she had quirky ways of expressing herself and misused certain words and phrases, but I was assured by the professionals I asked that she probably just wasn’t ready yet and I shouldn’t worry too much. I accepted these answers because, as a good mother, I knew I shouldn’t compare my children to one another. I knew that my other child hadn’t done any of these things and had been interested in learning letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and more long before kindergarten, but I also knew that children develop at different rates. So I waited.

It wasn’t until kindergarten, when she was obviously failing miserably, that I began to demand answers for the questions I asked. I was no longer willing to accept that she might be “not ready yet.” I consulted with learning disability specialists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and neuropsychologists. She went through testing and evaluations galore, and we finally had answers. She wasn’t just “not ready.” She had developmental delays and learning challenges that required specific, targeted interventions to help her compensate for or overcome them.

And she is. My daughter is now in the fourth grade. She isn’t failing school but is making slow and steady progress toward her goals. She is able to interact and play with other children more easily. She maintains eye contact pretty well with people with whom she’s familiar and comfortable. She speaks clearly enough that we can understand the words she says, although she retains some quirky turns of phrase and has difficulty with descriptions. She wears pants now and doesn’t chew her clothes up, although the occasional pencil still falls prey to her sensory needs. She still enjoys playing alone, but when she plays with others she doesn’t isolate them as much as she used to. She is still bright and bubbly and a delight to have around.

The good news is that you don’t have to go through the same thing we did. Use great resources like Play is a Child’s Work! and the Kindergarten Readiness Indicator Checklist from the Better Beginnings Resource Library. Spend time interacting with and observing your child closely, and take any questions or concerns you have to a trusted professional. Early intervention is key. Trust your instincts about your child.

If you’re in Arkansas and need child care, please consider a Better Beginnings provider. They have fun, hands-on educational activities for every child!

Other articles in the Learning Through Play series:

Back to Basics: Learning Through Play - jenniferajanes.com

This entry was posted in Autism, Homeschool, Parenting, Sensory Processing Disorder, Special Needs. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Why My Child Almost Failed Kindergarten – And Yours Doesn’t Have To

  1. Meg says:

    It’s such a fine line, isn’t it? I know that we’ve been far more aggressive with Jude than we were with Luke. I don’t write “my gut doesn’t like this” off anymore.

  2. Dorothy Hill says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I know it was really difficult at the time to try to understand what was happening with your precious child. Really admire your determination and perseverance.

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  4. Shell says:

    Great post. It’s so hard sometimes to see things when we are so close. I know I wish I’d gotten my eldest son help sooner in preK when I saw he had difficulties holding a crayon, but I thought it was just a boy/girl difference and thought he just wasn’t interested. Thanks for this article!

  5. Thank you for sharing this. And I’m so glad that you all were able to figure out not only what was wrong but how to go about making things better.

  6. Jolene Philo says:

    It can be much harder for parents than for teachers to recognize how our kids’ behavior compares to the behavior of other kids. We’re comparing them to the small pool of our other children, while teachers have a pool of all the children they have taught. We have to remember that. Your daughter sounds absolutely delightful as she progresses at a rate that is exactly right for her. Thanks for adding this to the DifferentDream.com Tuesday special needs link share.

    • Thanks, Jolene! The thing I really struggled with is that I am a certified teacher (although not an early childhood education specialist) who spent years in the classroom, and I still missed so much. I think part of the problem is I got distracted by her health issues. I’m just glad I finally got things somewhat figured out, and now we’re moving forward!

  7. I see some of the same things in my son. He chews his clothes sometimes and likes for things to be lined up. He is also perfectly fine playing alone, though he does also like playing with other kids — if they play the way that he wants to. Right now he is in speech and occupational therapy. I actually denied for a long time that he had a delay, but thankfully I finally admitted it and he has been getting additional assistance for almost a year. I was like you — I didn’t want to compare him to other kids. But we do still need to pay attention and have an open mind.

    • I agree about having an open mind and paying attention, Tiffany! I’m glad your son is getting the assistance he needs to be able to thrive – and that you didn’t wait as long as I did to seek help. I think I got distracted by my daughter’s health issues for a long time and just couldn’t see past them to something else needing attention.

  8. My daughter needed surgery when she was 2 days old to correct a birth defect. By the time she was 6 months old, she had underwent three surgeries. Needless to say, physical therapy has been a regular occurrence in our home since she was 2.
    Fast forward to yesterday — our first parent/teacher conference in kindergarten. Afterwards, I told friends that we didn’t have a conference, we had a confab. It was my husband, me, the teacher, the school counselor and the school’s physical AND occupational therapists.
    They all looked so nervous as they told us they thought my daughter needed therapy at school. They all looked so relieved as we told them, “Sure,” and that she is already getting one hour of outside physical therapy a week. The relief on their faces made me wonder — how many times are parents in denial — or flat out angry — about what they are recommending?
    As for us, we’re pretty excited that our daughter may get some additional physical (and possible occupational) therapy at school. We can only afford so much through insurance and private pay options, so I’m thrilled that she may get a chance to “catch up” thanks to some additional help.

    • I think that’s awesome, Yavonda! I didn’t mention it in this article, but I really think the reason we failed to see so much of what was going on was because of our daughter’s health situation. It was so bad for so long (and took us so long to get to a stable place) that we really couldn’t see past that for a while – or we wrote off what we did see as due to the fact that she didn’t feel well. It’s so hard to know what’s what when your child’s situation is complicated! There was certainly nothing in the parenting books I read to help me navigate all of this. 😉

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