A little over a year ago, we had to make the decision whether to hold my son back in kindergarten or let him advance to first grade. He was making progress but was obviously not matching up with his classmates. He had his letters down, but reading was not coming to him. He enjoyed going to school and LOVED his friends, was there a real point in it?
I come from an academically high achievers’ family. Both my parents with doctorates and teachers on their own Postgraduate courses. My brother is a VERY smart man whose IQ is probably off the charts (we don’t have those tests in Argentina). I was a valedictorian in High School and had I chosen to go to a private college, I would have had a scholarship due to my grades.
Growing up, even though there was no real punishment for bad or low grades, the pressure was there. “Why not an A?” my mom would ask when I came home with a B+ … School was always easy for me (granted, my school was more artistic oriented), I never had to study much, and I had a good student reputation, which always helped.
So, as you can imagine, holding him back in kindergarten was tougher on me than anyone else.
On the other hand, my husband struggled in first grade learning to read (remember when we were learning to read in first grade?). If it wasn’t for a teacher that took him under her wing and helped him to catch up, he would have failed. For him, this was a known scenario but since he “survived” and caught up, repeating kindergarten also didn’t make a lot of sense.
My son has a speech delay and was also diagnosed with HFA. He is so high functioning that he “flew” under the radar for the first couple of years, and I had to seek out answers because I had this gut feeling that something was not quite right. All this means for us is that emotionally, he is not as mature as another child his age. At the same time, he enjoys his own world A LOT, so he goes there when bored.
I was reluctant to keep him in kindergarten and the hubs was backing me up on that. Then, I talked to a few adults that mentioned how they had wished their parents would have done that for them. Or that they were held back as a child, and it was great for their emotional maturity. All of these adults are now accomplished professionals and parents and great people that you would not know they were held back had they not shared this with me.
With tears, fear and a little bit of shame (I am being very honest here), I listened to his amazing teacher and the therapists and decided to retain him. He never had behavior issues and we didn’t want to make his school experience one that he would dread and maybe start with push back from him if he felt under too much pressure. He noticed the first couple of months that his friends had moved up without him, but as soon as he made new friends, the comments started to fade away.
The growth we saw in him this last year was amazing. He felt comfortable because he had an “early start” with letters and sounds, and that fed his confidence and he has been reading since the second half of the year. I checked in with his teacher to make sure he was on target and that he was making progress. He was! Of course, he has his preferred subjects and math comes easier to him, but don’t we all?
This end of the year for us held a lot of emotional baggage. I can feel he is taking off and although our challenges are far from over, I feel that now he is with an age group more his speed. I am very grateful for his teachers and friends that assure me that one year is not such a big difference when it comes to finding a job or starting college.
We are starting a new school in the fall. One that is much bigger and first grade looks like the scary monster in the closet, but like the character on “How to Catch a Monster,” he might want to just play with us. I know he can do it. It might take him a little longer (or not), we might need different approaches, but I am learning with him. We never stop learning.
By the way, he got a diploma for his reading skills at graduation…