How to make a struggling kindergartner feel valued
December 14, 2012 8:14 AM   Subscribe

How to help child struggling in kindergarten?

My 5yo is having a horrendous time with kindergarten. He has been through some very difficult times in his life and has some mental health issues as a result. But he previously had no problems at daycare, although he had a lot of problems at home. Now he is in kindergarten and having trouble. While paperwork is underway for additional classroom support and we have been in family therapy for a long while, I am wondering about some specific issues he has.

Aside from everything else, I think my son is struggling with having one teacher and 17 other students. Daycare was 5:1 and I only ever sent him part time, so he's also used to more like 2:1 or 1:1, depending on whether his sibling is home. I am seeing that, at school, he is bursting with the desire to tell stories, make people laugh, let people know about interesting facts and more. The other kids are not remotely interested in his stories about things he has experienced or learned, such as a hilarious problem at home that morning or even his desire to explain stuff about Christmas, science, history, books, you-name-it. He is often very excited about these things and, of course, at daycare, they immediately made space and time when he wanted to tell a story. That won't work in kindergarten, especially since all the freeplay is in the afternoon and the activities seem to be very structured. He is constantly disrupting the class - to share his stories, find out what other kids are doing, and to make other kids laugh. While we believe his emotional challenges are affecting him heavily and that he is experiencing anxiety, I am thinking specifically about his need to be heard. He gets very upset that neither the teacher nor the other students want to hear all his stories. He's a really social kid with some big challenges and anxieties. Socializing helps him feel valued, but it doesn't fit with the expectations of the classroom. He is disruptive (in this and in many, many other ways) all day.

I can't change how the teachers have set up kindergarten. I am working with them and we are working on getting additional classroom support. But how can I create opportunities for him to feel like he is important, heard and valued?

By the end of the day, he is exhausted, so an after school class is just too much for him. (I've tried.) He needs freeplay and I try to give him that. I also pick him up at 3 pm, so it's not that he never gets attention from anyone. And he's used to being at daycare, so it's not that he has never been away.

I am looking for creative ideas. I have thought of recording him on video or audio. But what else can I do? And how can I help him feel loved and valued when he has to sit and be quiet at school all day? Right now, all the attention he is getting is negative.
posted by anonymous to Education (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are there any alternative schools in your area you could put him in, either private or public (charter, etc.)? Some schools such as Montessori are less structured and more self-directed. Waldorf is another school you could look at.
posted by Dansaman at 8:28 AM on December 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

I don't have a silver-bullet solution for you. It sounds like you need better partnership with the teachers, principal, counselors, interventionists, school staff, etc. But you should take solace in the fact that he is not a bad kid, is not hurting others, etc. If anything, it sounds like he is very curious and could be bored with curriculum. Have you explained all of this to the teacher/staff? Can you explain how important recess/PE/socialization is to them? In my experience, most kindergartners crave sincere adult attention. I promise you he is not unique in this regard. Sounds like it would help to have another adult in the classroom for even part of the day, or a couple of days a week. Does your school permit adult volunteers in the classroom? Can you or another parent volunteer to help out in the classroom? Talk to the principal and assistant principals if you haven't already. Good luck - I know it can be tough.
posted by mattbucher at 8:31 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is going to sound harsh, but isn't learning when it's time to shut up and listen part of what kindergarten is for?

You say that "he's a really social kid", and "socializing helps him feel valued", but he isn't really socializing is he? He's trying to dominate the environment, which really doesn't sound very healthy.

I get that he has some issues that might make his ability to socialize properly develop later, but it does have to develop sometime, right?

If he's getting recess at school and time at home to act out and be "free", I would worry less about him feeling like he is "important, heard and valued" and more about helping him to understand that he is not the only important person in class, that he needs to listen to others, and that everyone has value.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:41 AM on December 14, 2012 [17 favorites]

I have to agree with sparklemotion. If he does not learn these lessons in school then he is destined to be a very uphappy adult. We have way too many adults who were taught that they are the most important, the most heard and the most valued person. But to be happy and fulfilled in a adult world you need the ability to see outside yourself.

A 5yo is just beginning to learn that and it is hard especially if you have trauma behind you. But it is a good lesson to learn. Eventually a well adjusted person can give those feeling to him or herself. But you have to learn to do that and school is an excellent place for that.

I feel for you little guy- he has a tough way to go. But he can do it with support.
posted by shaarog at 8:53 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is going to also sound harsh, but I agree with sparklemotion. It sounds like he's an only child? He's been in school since Sept?
I know this 3 months has probably felt like FOREVER for you, the kid, the teachers and his classmates, but (hopefully) it'll get better. It took one of my kids until late spring to figure out kindergarten.
I don't know your situation or your kid, but the teachers should know how to handle this, chances are they've seen kids like him many times in the past and the school will find a way to work it out. Hopefully he'll learn to fit it.
Make sure you're talking to everyone at the school, teachers, social workers, principals, and so on...
posted by Blake at 8:53 AM on December 14, 2012

He might just not be ready for kindergarten this year. That's actually not a bad thing to recognize and accept.
posted by jamaro at 8:54 AM on December 14, 2012 [10 favorites]

Kindergarten isn't what it used to be, even 20 years ago when I started teaching. Academic and social expectations are higher, structured activities are plentiful.

Something to consider -- When did your son turn 5? The difference between a student who starts at 5.5 and 4.75 is enormous in terms of maturity.

My older kid started at 5.75 and really flourished. My younger kid was much younger and ended up in "Super K" (repeat) the next year and is now awesomely in 2nd grade. We know a kid who turned 6 before he started K -- he just wasn't ready at 5. Age is something that gets discussed in teacher staff rooms all the time.

Personal story, my parents pushed me into K (in the 1970's) way too young and the lack of social maturity haunted me. Academic readiness is hardly an excuse for starting too young.

Preschools don't always tell you when or if your kid is ready, especially if they need spots open for students who will be there for several years, you know?

Good Luck! It's so hard, this educating-your-children thing. It never seems to be without some challenges.
posted by mamabear at 8:55 AM on December 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

I don't know if this is going to be helpful, but it sounds as if he is not ready for full-day kindergarten. Is kindergarten legally mandated in your community? Believe it or not, it is often an optional year.

If he's going to continue to go to "real" school, it sounds as if he needs a smaller setting. The schools suggested in a post above are private, however ($$$).

What does the family therapist say? I would look to her/him, since he is under treatment with this individual who presumably knows him well.

You might look into the possibility of a therapeutic kindergarten, since you say he has "emotional issues." This might be part of special ed services and might thus be free for you, once you get the proper documents in place (as a function of having him assessed by the school district).

I know this issue is difficult for you. It's probably not a great idea for him to learn at five years old that his behavior is Bad. I disagree with the poster above who says it's time for him to, in effect, shape up. Different kids have different internal timetables, and trauma and anxiety obviously can keep children regressed emotionally and cognitively. I think an additional program (afterschool) is the worst idea.

Your instincts sound very correct and humane. This sounds like a child who needs intense nurturing right now, and he's trying and failing to get it, thus he is being retraumatized daily (as you know). A large classroom is obviously not the place for this little boy.

If he were mine I think the first steps would be (1) talk to the family therapist; (2) request a full evaluation from the school.

(I have to say that I am not your therapist.)
posted by DMelanogaster at 8:57 AM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't think your son is ready for kinder either. Your son's needs are important, but his need to be heard cannot and should not trump the needs of the other students in the class. I love children who tell stories, but as a teacher with 25 other children to teach, I would be remiss in my duties if I indulged your son's needs over every other child's.

That being said, I wonder if your son might be a good fit for Montessori. He'd have more freedom to explore his creative, social side in a self-motivated learning environment. There are smaller class sizes and it might fit better with his needs overall.

He sounds like a wonderful little boy. I hope you find something that works for him and you.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:11 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a former teacher and based upon what you've written, it sounds like your son is just not ready for kindergarten.

My Godson had similar problems and we all worked with him to teach him when it was appropriate to be loud and proud, and when he needed to quiet down and pay attention. It took him until he was in first grade to really grasp the rhythm and flow of school. He loves it now, but it was really hard for him.

The months of development at this age range are really important. If your son has emotional, developmental delays (due to trauma, or just age) then it's going to look like what you're describing. So he may actually be 5 years and 6 months, but if he's emotionally 4 years and 8 months, it's kind of a big deal.

If private schooling is an option, explore it. If it isn't, perhaps you need to wait it out a bit and work with him at home.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:22 AM on December 14, 2012

Oof. It bums me out when school systems label and pathologize the behavior of very young children. I don't know anything about your kid other that what you've written here, but he sounds perfectly within the range of ordinary child weirdness to me. Even if he is a person with some emotional challenges, I think it's so unhelpful and even damaging to tell little kids that there is something wrong with them and they need to fall in line and shape up. Especially if he's a person with some emotional challenges!

Here are some ideas:

*Are there any alternative schools near you? I know this might be a huge cost issue. I empathize. It sucks. One way to think of it if you do this is to think that maybe you could try an alternative school for the first few years until more and more self-regulation kicks in, and then try to transition back to a mainstream school. It doesn't have to be forever, necessarily.

*You could talk to your little boy and say "I've noticed that at your new school, you'd really like to tell stories like you used to at daycare. But I guess that doesn't really work here unless it's recess. I wonder if you have any ideas for what we could do about this problem?" Maybe together you can brainstorm some ideas, like maybe he could ask the teacher to make a note of a story he'd like to tell his parents later, so he remembers (maybe you could get him a special notebook for this), or maybe you could do special story time on the way to school?

*A lot of people redshirt their boys for reasons fairly close to this. In spite of the "Yuppies be gamin' the system" idea we all have about redshirting, I think a lot of it comes out of parents recognizing that this is not your mother's kindergarten. This is not play-based. This is butts in seats and listening quietly, for hours. And at five, that is just not a practical option for many kids. So I think redshirting is often parents trying to set their kid up for initial success rather than labeling and drama. Is it at all an option for you guys to pull him and wait for next fall?

I hope you can figure something out. This all sounds really stressful.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:42 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a first grade teacher. It's just a widely accepted fact amongst kindergarten teachers that the kindergarteners take at least half a year to really "get" what school is all about, with walking in line, and having to raise your hand to say something you want to say, and taking turns, and sharing, etc. etc. I would say give him a bit more time to get used to the routines.

Also, it might be negative reinforcement if he's getting the vibe from you that his teachers aren't giving him the attention/limelight he deserves. Kids are very aware of their parents' feelings around that kind of stuff, and it might give him a bit of a sense of entitlement. Re: "other kids are not remotely interested in his stories," it's a fact of life that five year olds tend to be self-centered people, I don't think this reflects negatively on their empathy or ability to make friends with your child. I would encourage you to help him seize the opportunity to take a step back and self-regulate some of his impulses until you can get him into a more suitable school environment (Montessori, Waldorf, etc.). Part of what he's going through is just a normal transition that kids experience when they move into what is honestly just a more institutional, less one-on-one environment.
posted by mermily at 9:50 AM on December 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

It sometimes does boys who would be among the youngest in their kindergartens great good to be "red shirted" - held back a year. It worked for my cousin, and he's grown and happily employed and partnered and well-adjusted.

Sometimes kids are not emotionally and socially ready for kindergarten even if they are technically chronologically ready. It's much less traumatic and humiliating for a kid to be held back a year in kindergarten than have to repeat a year. This may or may not be the case for your kid. Check with a therapist.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:52 AM on December 14, 2012

I like your idea of recording him on video and audio. Maybe set up a private YouTube account just for his videos.

If he likes drawing pictures or writing, another idea is to let him create "books" drawings or "newspapers" to tell his stories. Fold a big piece of paper in half and create boxes for "articles" where he can write, draw, color, and highlight his stories.

Does your son's Kindergarten have show and tell? This is a perfect time to share one of his stories.

He sounds like a lively, energetic kid who wants to talk, talk, talk. This is not unusual. Kindergarten is a new experience. He'll learn the rules and gain more impulse-control as he gets older.

You didn't ask for this specifically but I think it helps to keep reminding him there are times to talk and times to be quiet. Let him know your expectations. My boys are older and I don't hold back. I tell them, "It's considerably rude and disrespectful to talk and disrupt the classroom when your teacher is trying to teach. Keep your eyes on her and don't say a word unless called on, or it's an appropriate time to speak." "I hope you're not disrupting your class." "I don't care if that other kid is talking to you. Keep your eyes on the teacher and ignore him."
posted by Fairchild at 9:54 AM on December 14, 2012

Right now, all the attention he is getting is negative

Well, that's easily fixed: make sure the teacher gives him lots of positive attention. "I notice how patiently you're waiting, Joe" or "Good listening, Dave" etc. He could have a sticker chart or card for when he has a calm body, a quiet mouth, listens well. Maybe he gets handed a token for every 20 minutes he's got school behavior, and then can trade the tokens in for a prize at home.

I'm usually the first person in with "The kid is fine! Society needs to change!" but in this case I do agree with sparklemotion: he needs to learn when to be quiet and listen. If he isn't ready to do that yet, he might not be ready for Kindergarten.

If he has to go to school now, is half-day Kindergarten an option? That way he'd have to keep it together for only a few hours, and maybe the rest of the day could be spent in a situation where he can get the attention he wants.

But really, try to be optimistic! The first trimester is just ending, right? There's plenty of time for him to get it together. It's very early in the year to be worrying too much.

how can I create opportunities for him to feel like he is important, heard and valued?

That's going to have to happen after 3:00 if he needs a lot more one-on-one time than the average kid does (presuming he doesn't need full-on special ed support). Sorry, it sucks that class sizes are so big. They're even bigger where I am, and I see a lot of what you're talking about in the classrooms I volunteer in.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:56 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

My son is in a whole class of kids like your son...or who are variously not ready for kindergarten. It's a Young 5s class offered by the school system. If he hadnt gotten a spot in Begindergarten, we'd probably have bitten the bullet and paid for another year at his excellent preschool. It's a bit less structured, the academics are preschool-ish (alphabet knowledge -- cat starts with c rather than c-a-t spells cat) and much of what they focus on is adapting to the environment and learning group norms. It's nonsense that your son never be a functional adult if he doesn't learn to sit still right now; some kids really do need some extra time to mature, especially if they're coping with experiences that are outside the norm. In your shoes, if it were possible, I'd find another place for him this year and try kindergarten again next fall.

Good luck.
posted by not that girl at 10:22 AM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Based on what you said about past trauma and anxiety, sounds like he's trying SO HARD to feel liked (by telling stories) and secure that he's turning people off. Then when he senses that people are turned off, the only thing he knows to do is TRY HARDER because somehow if he tries hard enough someone will like him and then he'll feel safe. Add that to the simple fact that he may not be ready for kindergarten and the situation is all messed up.

Besides having a therapist work on these anxiety issues with him, don't think about how you can make him feel valued. You want him to feel valued, but not on his current terms (which are so dependent on dominating or controlling the social environment. He may be trying to control because in his mind if he controls, no more trauma can happen). So, teach him different ways that he can feel valued. For example, he values people who listen to his stories, so I'll bet others will value him listening to theirs. The teacher values students who follow her directions, etc. Right now, he only knows of one particular way to feel valued, when there are tons of other ways...he just hasn't figured it out yet.

Also, be very careful and cognizant of the behaviors you and others are rewarding, whether you mean to or not. Look at rewards through his eyes...maladaptive behaviors become habits through unintentional reinforcement. His social habits were reinforced in daycare when all the attention was placed on his storytelling. While you don't want to completely shut that down, you do want to balance that out with rewarding more appropriate social behaviors, as well as teaching that different situations call for different behaviors.
posted by MultiFaceted at 1:18 PM on December 14, 2012

Some people have commented that adjusting is just the way it is, tough as it may be, and he'll have to adapt in order to become a "normal" person.

I think two important things are being overlooked:

1. This kid has been through trauma. He definitely is different from the other kids in the classroom and has special needs.

2. Who is to say that "the way it is" is good? American primary schooling is not stellar by international standards, and furthermore there are zillions of depressed kids and adults out there, and some percentage of them are probably that way in part because of the soul-deadening factory assembly lines that are called schools and haven't fundamentally changed in hundreds of years (no offense to teachers, who are heroes for trying their best, often with no support from parents). If that is normal, well no thanks. There are better systems out there. I mentioned Montessori and Waldorf earlier, and there are others. The latter is child development oriented, and the former respects the child's individuality, let's him flourish at the things he's interested in through the self-directed learning process, does not make kids hate school by assigning busywork homework and making them learn on someone else's schedule instead of their own, etc. There's probably nothing "wrong" with this boy but rather a lot wrong with our educational system, including this (which is actually much broader than the title and first sections indicate). Alternative schools are not for everyone. Some kids do better with highly structured (in the traditional top-down sense) environments, but other kids do much better in self-structured (i.e., self-directed) environments that often do a better job of recognizing, respecting, and handling the individual child's strengths, interests, maturity, etc. (again no offense to all the smart and hard-working teachers who do their best with all the various constraints they have, including testing requirements, overpopulated classrooms, uninvolved parents, bureaucratic rigidity, etc.).
posted by Dansaman at 2:35 PM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ran out of editing time. Wanted to say:

THAT is why your son doesn't feel valued - he's just a unit with a serial number in a factory (again, due to the system, not due to the teachers). My mother was a teacher in a public school system in a college town in the Midwest where I went to school. In a recent conversation she asked me why I thought the schooling wasn't good. I tried to think of the most succinct answer I could, and it was "Because I wasn't tended to.". Your son's individual attributes are not being tended to, and probably never can be in the environment he's in. So it's going to be a question of whether the school wears him down and "breaks" him or you find a different environment for him.
posted by Dansaman at 2:43 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that he intuitively picks up on the fact that you think he should be heard and that the kids should be entertained by him, and he finds this encouraging.

While I have a certain amount of sympathy for sparklemotion's take, kids mature at different rates, and the child needs an environment where he can be eased in to the new way of doing things, with your prodding. So while he's in a situation right now where he needs to sit down and not indulge his need to be the center of attention for long amounts of time while you subtly nurture that aspect of his personality, the solution is the opposite: a place where he can allow these instincts to run through his system while you subtly encourage and introduce him the "grown up" way of doing things, so that he is ready for a traditional classroom in a year or two. Traumatizing a kid into compliance will just mean that the kid learns to hate being in school.

(but don't listen to me, I don't have kids. All I know is that trying to shove a square peg into a round hole doesn't work in one full swoop. I've said it 100 times-- social skills are skills-- you teach and train them until you become proficient at them)
posted by deanc at 3:17 PM on December 14, 2012

The idea that kids need to "get with the program" and just suck it up and conform is a bit much for me. The kid is *5*. Yes, kids do need to learn how to sit still and listen at times, but there are limits to what a five-year-old can handle and a lot of kindergarten curriculum is now created with a goal of test-prep rather than being developmentally appropriate.

The process of learning how to be part of a school community should ideally not be traumatic for the kids. Talk to your son's teacher about whether it would be possible for there to be social play time briefly during the morning. Ask whether the teacher could offer opportunities for storytelling - these should be part of early literacy anyway. And if you are able, volunteer to be in the classroom so that the teacher has an extra adult to help out and kids can get more attention.

And yes, alternative schools can be a great option. I went to one (public) and loved it, I teach at one now (private) and the kids are very happy being themselves.
posted by mai at 5:36 PM on December 14, 2012

Former childcare worker here. Nthing others that 1) It just might be too early for him, and also that 2) It can take kindergartners of all shapes and stripes a while to adjust to kindergarten. Sometimes six months, sometimes they don't really iron out the kinks until after a whole year. On the one hand, take comfort from the fact that kids are very adaptable; your son will probably get there one way or another. On the other hand, take comfort knowing that it is a big change, and a big step.

I have worked with children coming from very troubled environments, with special needs, with PTSD, all kinds of stuff. They all take a little longer to adjust to schooling environments, but the vast majority do adjust - with appropriate support.

You sound like a very thoughtful, conscientious, and wonderful parent.
posted by smoke at 9:05 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks for all your comments. I wanted to clarify a few points, as I am feeling quite attacked and misunderstood.

Private school, alternative schools, and a return to daycare are not on the agenda. His mental health care team and other health care providers and former daycare teachers and everyone else who has looked at this situation (including his parents) agree that, from a family systems perspective, having all of our kids at one school is the best case scenario. This decision was made in cooperation with kindergarten teachers and the principal from the school. The amount of time spent commuting, taking kids from one place to another, travelling through rush hour, changing households, and so on were taking a heavy toll on my son. And even his daycare teachers felt that he was too bright to spend another year in daycare. He is a late in the year child, but the school promised me that they would have resources available if he struggled. Also, it is felt that changing schools now would be far too destabilizing for him. It is better to make his current situation work. I don't want to share too much identifying information, but too much of what has already happened in his short life has been incredibly destabilizing for him and that changing schools now would cause further damage. I spent considerable time having evaluations and expert opinions before I even put him into kindergarten. Even now, the overall family systems effect of having the kids at one place has been important for the family as a whole and my son has benefited from this too. I have serious health problems of my own and taking him out of school for a year is not an option, nor can I afford a $20/hr nanny to look after him during the day as I'm a single mother, and the waitlists for preschools and daycares here are extremely long. I don't have the option to return to his old daycare, as the spot has been filled and the waitlist is 1-2 years - and that is the same situation across the city. Without identifying where we live, we are in an urban area of Canada where there is a childcare crisis. And, in spite of all that, it is still felt by his health care team and his parents that the best situation is to keep him in kindergarten. It was felt that the challenges with this transition would happen no matter whether it was this year or next and that saving $10k in childcare fees would free us to pay for specialized therapy and other interventions to help him in the transition to school. It was felt that spending 2 years in kindergarten was preferable to the previous situation, for reasons I can't really expand on. Please believe me when I say that multiple people aided us in making this decision and it was not taken lightly. Leaving kindergarten is not considered an optimal decision.

I was not trying to suggest that my son needs to be a special snowflake in the classroom. Nor was I applauding his need to tell stories at daycare - I was simply recognizing that his daycare recognized and encouraged public speaking and storytelling skills and that this, of course, influenced his expectations in kindergarten. My son is NOT an only child, nor my first child to attend kindergarten, nor is this the first public school my children have attended - and I am an educator myself, albeit not at this level nor in this kind of system. I am not giving off vibes where I expect him to go flit around the room or anything of the like, nor where I expect the teacher to stop things to listen to him. If anything, I feel anxious that he is not going with the flow and causing both the teacher and other students challenges. I got my son early intervention mental health care and the school and health care system say I am one of the most proactive parents they have ever seen, as most people resist getting their kids help because of fear of the system or labels or the stigma of mental illness. My son also has significant behaviour problems at home. He is the only one of my children having trouble - my other children are praised for their ability to sit quietly, perform several years above grade level, etc. My son's situation is felt to be almost entirely based on trauma and genetics and it is also felt that his problems would happen whether I waited another year for kindergarten or not.

So, having said all that, I am looking for ways to help my son feel recognized and valued. His teachers are new to teaching kindergarten. The funding for special needs has been stripped and it will take time to get even a few hours from a support aide. Everyone is on board and they are looking to me for ideas. But my ideas need not only be used in the classroom. I am home schooling him part-time during the week (to reduce the stress of school) and I am also looking to support him when he is at home. Ideas such as filming videos (*at home*), making his own books (*at home), or otherwise finding ways to feel valued and recognized in the world would help. He likes to perform and entertain others. I'm not looking to have him disrupt the school and I know that, once all the paperwork is in place, there will be an occasional support aide and resource teachers to do independent work with him. For the most part, I am looking for suggestions about how to help him OUTSIDE school, although low key suggestions for school would help too, as they are looking for suggestions. This situation is far more complicated and deeper than I can get into in AskMe without disclosing more details, but I welcome any optimistic suggestions.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:34 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does his class have sharing time, daily or weekly? Maybe you could work together on preparing his "material" for this, so the buildup and 1:1 attention can happen at home, but he can still get some in-class storytelling time. Or, if there isn't sharing time at school he could prep for a family sharing time with his siblings.
posted by deadcrow at 8:47 AM on December 15, 2012

> The funding for special needs has been stripped and it will take time to get even a few hours from a support aide

I'm in the US, so this is probably irrelevant, but I'll share it just in case Canada has similar laws. My understanding, based on what I've read on parents' e-mail lists, is that here they can't strip the special ed funding. The money has to come from the gen ed fund if it's needed. In Washington State there's a fund the school district can apply to to get funding if they have an unexpected expense for a special ed student.

I was a super-involved parent, too, and went to all the meetings and tried to do everything I could to get my son the support he needed. But things didn't really move along until I hired consultants to come in and get the school district to change things big-time.

Anyway, since you're looking for things to do outside of school.... I was part of a study that ended up being The Incredible Years program. It was wonderful, and it sounds like it would be really good for your son. The book, by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, has a terrible cover but it's great, full of advice on how to play with your child (not as easy as it sounds), how to work with the schools, how to deal with behavioral issues, all sorts of good stuff.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:11 AM on December 15, 2012

Just what does a child that young need with a 'mental health care team'? Something just does not add up here. There seems to be a lot more to this story and hiding behind "it's too identifying" sounds fishier than it should.

You don't want to hear it, because there are all sorts of other complications, but it genuinely sounds like your boy would be best served sitting out kindergarten this year. If you don't do this now and battle with the complexities of doing it then you'll likely end up with a LIFETIME of other hassles and battles. What's best for the boy, LONG TERM, is the important point, not that it's going to be a huge pain in the ass to do it.
posted by wkearney99 at 2:24 PM on December 15, 2012

wkearney99, many children with traumatic histories that include but are not limited to physical and emotional abuse, extreme poverty, loss of a parent, parents with addiction and more need all kinds of support to ensure they have the best opportunities to deal with the incredibly shitty hand life has dealt them.

In countries that have a functioning welfare state and public health sector, it is not at all uncommon for these children to have a team of people dedicated to helping them - and others like them - back on track. Even when not publicly available many conscientious parents will have an informal "team" made up of people like educators, counsellors, GP, and more.

We don't know anything about this child or the situation that led to their current circumstances.
posted by smoke at 3:11 PM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I agree with smoke. In Canada, it's not uncommon for a child to be referred to a mental health care team, if they have anxiety, depression, trauma, adjustment problems or even ADHD. For example, in Toronto, they might go to CITYKIDS or in Vancouver to Alan Cashmore or a program funded by ACTCalgary in Calgary. In larger centres, it's not uncommon for the regional health authority to fund early childhood or childhood mental health programs and to use an integrated team approach with a counsellor, psychiatrist, patient coordinator, etc. My kids have had that even for basic home nursing services after they were born or for speech therapy. And all the public schools in my city have school-based teams, which also liaise/coordinate with outside teams, plus maybe this OP also has a pediatrician and social worker (which doesn't imply a social services case - you can access social workers through hospitals here for help in coordinating care) and so on involved.

If the OP's child has been involved in a high profile incident, perhaps sharing more information would make it too easy to identify the child. Or perhaps that info could be used to link an anonymous question to the OP's username or otherwise out the OP to other members of Mefi. Or, as in my case, maybe they have an agreement with their ex about what info they can share about the kids on social media.

As for funding for special education, that's why teachers in BC went on strike last year. A teacher told me there isn't even funding for the first three levels and that ADHD doesn't even get funding anymore.

As for activities that can help the OP's child, maybe something like a performing arts program or circus or even hip hop or individual sports would work. Or perhaps video the kid doing knock-knock jokes.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:11 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Would he be interested in journaling? Kindergarten writing curriculum is almost always based on recording true stories from students' lives. Perhaps you and his teacher could each take a minute every day to provide written feedback to stories he writes in a journal or his regular writer's notebook. This way he could tell his stories and receive validation and feedback in an appropriate and non-disruptive way. If I were his teacher I would also suggest or let him choose to do this any time during the day when he has a story he is bursting to tell and is disrupting the rest of the class. You could also implement this at home. If you're busy with a task or another child and he's interrupting, tell him to go write it down. As long as you follow through with feedback, it shouldn't feel like a brush off.

My only concern would be it becoming a work avoidance technique, especially since kindergarten writing is at least 75% drawing a picture. Setting a timer might help with that.
posted by that's how you get ants at 8:22 AM on December 17, 2012

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