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    #221148 - 08/21/15 10:37 PM First week of kindergarten challenges
    Lepa Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/24/14
    Posts: 104
    Loc: San Francisco, CA
    We are at the end of my son's first week in kindergarten and I've already been summoned to a meeting with the teachers. I would appreciate some advice in following up with them.

    The teachers (there are two because he's at a private school) sent out a questionnaire before school started and we let them know that he was introverted and gifted with slower processing speed and that he preferred to observe initially and doesn't do well in noisy/chaotic situations. The teachers followed up two days ago asking if we had any insight/advice about encouraging our son to participate more in group activities. They suggested we talk in person so I met with them today. I felt the teachers were open and welcome additional ideas or feedback but I don't know what to tell them. I was hoping to get some feedback here, especially if your child was similar in kindergarten.

    Here is what the teachers described to us. First, the kids were asked to draw their "hopes and dreams for kindergarten." All the other kids drew lovely, colorful pictures that had captions like "make friends" or "have fun" on them. My son's first attempt was two or three black lines on a piece of paper. The teachers pulled him aside during a rest period to work with him one on one and said they saw that he was "brilliant." He drew a machine and told them his detailed plans for a salt harvester that he intends to build this year. It included a description of the components and the various uses of the machine. He didn't write this out (he hates to draw and write) but the teachers wrote his words under his picture. They posted the pieces outside the classroom and said all the teachers and staff had come by to comment on my son's piece because it was so unusual. The teachers acknowledged that my son is bright and creative but weren't sure how to encourage him to produce work with the group.

    I asked my son about this and he said he couldn't think anything up initially and then he started and messed up and got frustrated and gave up. I will note that he is a perfectionist and that he doesn't enjoy writing or drawing.

    The teachers told us about another experience with a similar project. The kids walked around their new school, finding shapes. Then they came back and drew the shapes they saw. The other kids all covered their paper with lots of nice, neat little shapes. My son drew a green scribble. I asked him about this and he said he wanted to draw a shape nobody else was doing and he tried to create a "really complex, unusual four-sided shape and I messed it up so I scribbled it out." I explained that the object wasn't to draw something nobody else had thought of, but rather to show that he knows his shapes and can reproduce them. He didn't realize this. My husband finds this funny and said he was the same as a child.

    Here is what I think is going on: my son has some anxiety and that he is still settling in. He is an introvert and takes a while to become comfortable in a new setting. He is going from four hours a day in preschool to an eight hour day at a new school. He hasn't been eating much and comes home tired and starving. (I told his teachers he hadn't been eating so they checked today and he ate more and was much more cooperative). I also think he doesn't understand exactly what the expectations are. He came from a Reggio preschool that is very play based and the children never did crafts where they were expected to produce a certain kind of art. They were allowed total freedom to express themselves (or not) with art materials. I think my son hasn't been in a situation where he is expected to produce a specific thing and that once he learns those expectations he will do better. I told my son that he doesn't have to draw well or make a perfect triangle, but we do expect him to participate and try and that scribbling isn't really acceptable.

    Was this the right approach? Am I missing something? I'm writing to see if anything here sounds familiar or if you have any ideas about what might encourage my son to cooperate/participate better. Anecdotes and encouragement welcome, too! Thank you!

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    #221152 - 08/22/15 03:33 AM Re: First week of kindergarten challenges [Re: Lepa]
    eco21268 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/21/15
    Posts: 647
    Originally Posted By: Lepa


    Here is what the teachers described to us. First, the kids were asked to draw their "hopes and dreams for kindergarten." All the other kids drew lovely, colorful pictures that had captions like "make friends" or "have fun" on them. My son's first attempt was two or three black lines on a piece of paper. The teachers pulled him aside during a rest period to work with him one on one and said they saw that he was "brilliant." He drew a machine and told them his detailed plans for a salt harvester that he intends to build this year. It included a description of the components and the various uses of the machine. He didn't write this out (he hates to draw and write) but the teachers wrote his words under his picture. They posted the pieces outside the classroom and said all the teachers and staff had come by to comment on my son's piece because it was so unusual. The teachers acknowledged that my son is bright and creative but weren't sure how to encourage him to produce work with the group.

    The teachers told us about another experience with a similar project. The kids walked around their new school, finding shapes. Then they came back and drew the shapes they saw. The other kids all covered their paper with lots of nice, neat little shapes. My son drew a green scribble. I asked him about this and he said he wanted to draw a shape nobody else was doing and he tried to create a "really complex, unusual four-sided shape and I messed it up so I scribbled it out." I explained that the object wasn't to draw something nobody else had thought of, but rather to show that he knows his shapes and can reproduce them. He didn't realize this. My husband finds this funny and said he was the same as a child.

    I also think he doesn't understand exactly what the expectations are.



    This is all sounds really familiar (as in eerily). I think you are on track about his not understanding the expectations. He is thinking of these assignments in terms of his own thought processes and preferences.

    It might be helpful to ask teachers to "check for understanding," but in a little more complex way: they should ask him explicitly to state what the assignment is (in his mind), not just ask "do you understand?" or if he understands the concepts being taught.

    He's making a lot of mental leaps between instruction and product. He needs help understanding the purpose of the assignment, and probably very direct instruction.

    It's good this is happening now, and that teachers are recognizing it (and his giftedness), because it sounds like they are open to your ideas and suggestions.

    The "hopes and dreams" type assignments are really difficult for kids who don't speak that language. I love that he hopes and dreams to build a salt harvester smile but that is most likely not the sort of thing the teacher has in mind... it sounds like "what the teacher has in mind" is not your DS' default mode.

    Basically, the teacher probably needs to turn her paradigm upside down for your DS--the areas where more typical students need extra help (academic areas) will be easy for your DS, and the things that more typical students intuit (social expectations, doing "fun" introspective type assignments), will require more support.

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    #221157 - 08/22/15 06:59 AM Re: First week of kindergarten challenges [Re: Lepa]
    blackcat Offline
    Member

    Registered: 05/23/13
    Posts: 2154
    It sounds like he doesn't understand what's expected for some of the assignments so I would ask if they can have a short one-on-one before he gets started to make sure he understands, and see if he has a plan for what he's going to do. Then check back with him as he's working to encourage/assist as needed. They did that with the salt harvester, but if there is a plan put into place ahead of time, that will avoid a lot of frustration.

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    #221161 - 08/22/15 07:21 AM Re: First week of kindergarten challenges [Re: blackcat]
    polarbear Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/29/11
    Posts: 3363
    Originally Posted By: blackcat
    It sounds like he doesn't understand what's expected for some of the assignments so I would ask if they can have a short one-on-one before he gets started to make sure he understands, and see if he has a plan for what he's going to do. Then check back with him as he's working to encourage/assist as needed.


    ITA. In fact, that's not an unusual approach in kindergarten for a lot of kids smile

    FWIW, getting called in as a parent for what you describe above, during the first week of kindergarten... seems... well, surprising. OTOH, and please don't extrapolate that this means I think something's up that you need to worry about but... the things you describe do sound similar to things we've experienced with our ds who has challenges. In kindergarten, those challenges looked like other things - not joining in, not trying, not understanding the directions, moving slow, etc. I can't speak directly to what you've seen (other than to say my ds is in high school now and seems to have one of those "hopes and dreams" types of assignments in at least one class each year and he *still* doesn't complete it in the way teachers expect), however, I think (and I may be remembering this incorrectly so please forgive me and ignore me if I am :))... but I think I remember your ds having an uneven profile when tested on the WPPSI? If he did, there's an outside chance that what's going on in class may be related to whatever caused that uneven profile in testing, and it may be something you want to pay attention to. So if it was me, I'd keep a journal of what difficulties are occurring in classwork, details about when they happen etc, and just watch to see if a pattern emerges. As the parent of a child who *does* have a challenge that's one thing I wish I had done - my ds had uneven scores on his first IQ testing that was done at 5 for entry into a gifted program as well as behavioral clues in his K-2 classrooms, but teachers and even myself and my dh thought it was all related to personality/etc simply because he was so obviously intelligent when he talked to us. The result of that lack of realizing and paying attention to the clues was he wasn't diagnosed until late 2nd grade, and by the time he was diagnosed his anxiety over school was sky-high due to struggling with a disability that he didn't understand.

    Hope that makes sense, I only mention it because I think you had mentioned an issue with discrepancy in test scores earlier - and that might be simply related to age at testing, but it might also be a red flag that somethings up. If you see red flags in the classroom too, the two pieces of evidence taken together might be meaningful.

    Best wishes,

    polarbear

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    #221166 - 08/22/15 08:34 AM Re: First week of kindergarten challenges [Re: Lepa]
    Lepa Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/24/14
    Posts: 104
    Loc: San Francisco, CA
    These responses are very helpful. Thank you.

    @Polarbear: You are right, my son may have an uneven profile and that's precisely why I posted here. My son is so different from any other child I know and I find it difficult to figure out if his various eccentricities are part of being gifted or a sign that he's struggling with something else. This board is so helpful for trying to figure out what looks like normal for kids like ours.

    FWIW, my son's WPPSI scores were uneven. The psychologist who administered the exam (for entry into a gifted school) said that my son refused to cooperate with parts of the test, refused to guess and acted silly (blinking excessively and talking in a high pitched voice). She wasn't particularly concerned about the gap in scores but she was concerned about the behavior. She told me that if we didn't see that behavior at school or in everyday life, we should just assume he was anxious and that the scores may not be accurate. A psychologist who has been working with my son for over a year on social skills thinks the test wasn't accurate and that my son was anxious. My son confirmed that he was scared and that the tester seemed angry when he didn't know answers so he stopped cooperating and focused on "cheering her up." I am aware that this anxiety and lack of ability to read the tester and situation may be a sign of some challenge. Or it could be related to the fact that he was a few months shy of five and wasn't ready to sit down and take a test.

    I will keep a journal and see if there is a pattern so we can be proactive if there does seem to be a problem. My son spends time with a psychologist every week for social skills. She knows him and doesn't see any cause for concern (she has ruled autism, for example) but she has cautioned that evidence of many learning disabilities only emerge once a child starts school. I imagine it's too early to tell but IF there is some other challenge we aren't aware of, does anything here provide a clue?

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    #221193 - 08/23/15 02:42 AM Re: First week of kindergarten challenges [Re: Lepa]
    eco21268 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/21/15
    Posts: 647
    Originally Posted By: Lepa
    My son spends time with a psychologist every week for social skills. She knows him and doesn't see any cause for concern (she has ruled autism, for example) but she has cautioned that evidence of many learning disabilities only emerge once a child starts school. I imagine it's too early to tell but IF there is some other challenge we aren't aware of, does anything here provide a clue?

    Curious--how did she reach the "rule-out" conclusion? Why is he specifically working on social skills?

    There are a lot of different kinds of learning challenges that can kind of overlap and be hard to identify just through informal observation--I've learned that here. smile Giftedness can really mask some underlying deficits. The remark where your DS thought the tester was angry and decided to cheer her up caught my attention. My verbally gifted 2E DS would do the same thing, exactly.

    I would want formal diagnostic testing. The NP who worked with my DS also tested my friends' two 2E boys. Her testing really teased out some important diagnostic information for all three of our kids--all gifted, all with challenges that are different in nature and require different interventions. It's really important information to know about your child. I sure wish I'd "known then what I know now" in regard to my DS.


    Edited by eco21268 (08/23/15 02:45 AM)

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    #221196 - 08/23/15 08:43 AM Re: First week of kindergarten challenges [Re: eco21268]
    DeeDee Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/16/10
    Posts: 2498
    Originally Posted By: eco21268
    Originally Posted By: Lepa
    My son spends time with a psychologist every week for social skills. She knows him and doesn't see any cause for concern (she has ruled autism, for example) but she has cautioned that evidence of many learning disabilities only emerge once a child starts school. I imagine it's too early to tell but IF there is some other challenge we aren't aware of, does anything here provide a clue?

    Curious--how did she reach the "rule-out" conclusion? Why is he specifically working on social skills?


    Agree with Eco here. Many psychologists have never seen a child who is gifted+autistic, and they may wrongly assess a child's verbal strength as meaning the child cannot have autism.

    I'd want a full evaluation by a neuropsychologist.

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    #221198 - 08/23/15 08:58 AM Re: First week of kindergarten challenges [Re: DeeDee]
    ElizabethN Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/17/12
    Posts: 1390
    Loc: Seattle area
    Originally Posted By: DeeDee
    Originally Posted By: eco21268
    Originally Posted By: Lepa
    My son spends time with a psychologist every week for social skills. She knows him and doesn't see any cause for concern (she has ruled autism, for example) but she has cautioned that evidence of many learning disabilities only emerge once a child starts school. I imagine it's too early to tell but IF there is some other challenge we aren't aware of, does anything here provide a clue?

    Curious--how did she reach the "rule-out" conclusion? Why is he specifically working on social skills?


    Agree with Eco here. Many psychologists have never seen a child who is gifted+autistic, and they may wrongly assess a child's verbal strength as meaning the child cannot have autism.

    I'd want a full evaluation by a neuropsychologist.


    Ideally one with experience in autism. A highly-recommended neuropsych around here missed the autism in both of my children when she tested them, and an autism specialist saw it almost immediately. I don't think that was because the autism specialist sees it in everyone; he just had a lot more experience in the weird and wonderful ways it can present.

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    #221203 - 08/23/15 08:53 PM Re: First week of kindergarten challenges [Re: Lepa]
    Lepa Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/24/14
    Posts: 104
    Loc: San Francisco, CA
    The psychologist my son works with specializes in autism and giftedness (along with anxiety disorders and adhd). She did her dissertation on the topic and spent years working in an autism assessment clinic. Her practice focuses on working on social skills with kids who have ASD and/or who are gifted. So I trust that she has the right experience. She has also spent a lot of time with my son in various settings. She is confident it's not autism and has said that doing a full evaluation would be a waste of our time and money.

    My son is getting help with social skills because his preschool said he could use some support. When he turned four his preschool teachers said that while he does fine one-on-one, he didn't play with the whole group at school. He is also sensitive to noise. They said he could use some extra help with social skills before starting kindergarten. We went to the psychologist and after evaluating my son and observing him at school, she concluded that he was just just "exceptionally bright" and that he wasn't connecting with the kids at school because he didn't have any peers and was talking about physics and engineering concepts that were over the kids' (and teachers') heads. He was also acting out in the classroom because he was bored. The psychologist recommended sending him to a gifted school and predicted that he would do fine socially if he was with other gifted kids. Since then he has met a couple of other gifted kids (through the group) and he has developed a strong connection with them. The psychologist feels that my son doesn't need the social skills support any longer but that we should continue through the first quarter of school to provide him with any needed support during the transition.

    That said, my son is quirky and I often think we are missing something. He's such a unique kid and most people he meets are instantly aware of that and they often comment on it. After particularly difficult weeks, I have often met with the psychologist and asked if she's SURE he doesn't have ASD and she's pretty confident. She has said that he may have some other kind of learning disability that will become apparent once he starts school but she doesn't see signs of anything yet.

    I'm not sure why, exactly she has ruled out ASD. From our last conversation about it (I bring it up every six months or so, after having a hard week), I seem to recall that she was considering the fact that my son is flexible and tends to like new experiences; that he doesn't have narrow interests; that he is interested in social relationships, is empathic (perhaps excessively so), is good at understanding others' perspectives and shows pro-social behavior, even if he is socially awkward.

    If you were me, would you still seek a second opinion? Or would you just wait and see how school goes?

    FWIW, the psychologist who did the IQ testing was annoyed with my son because he kept kicking her pant leg during the test (he often swings his leg and kicks the table so I've experienced this before). He picked up on this and thought she was angry because he didn't know an answer to the test. I know this because when we talked, months after the test, she made it clear that she was still annoyed by the memory of that test.

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    #221206 - 08/23/15 11:44 PM Re: First week of kindergarten challenges [Re: Lepa]
    syoblrig Offline
    Member

    Registered: 05/18/11
    Posts: 329
    Can I just say your son is so lucky to have you. He seems like a delightfully quirky kid and you are doing your best to understand his needs and help his teachers understand them as well. I love your approach.

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