SORRY THIS GOT LONG:
I've been quite silent on this board (but too active on fb as many of you know!) for a while. Our lives have not been silent, however. My 4 year old has had quite a time in school since September. I've been trying to break it down for a few weeks now, but I think I'm going to need the hive mind's help.
As you know he goes to a large daycare center. They used to have low turnaround, but since September things have gotten a little hectic there. D has had 6 teachers since September, some because they moved to other rooms in the center, others left on maternity leave (which I did last year so I totally understand and I'm not bitching about that!). Anyways, since he was around 2.5 we've been periodically called in to talk about his aggressive behavior. He struggled with biting, hitting, etc. I would say 90% of the time it was over a frustration or a conflict, he didn't just jump random people. It was always playmates, and for some reason never a single girl got bit/hit/kicked/punched. Always "friends."
Anyways, the center said they were going to put some things into place, like moving him up to an older room, calling someone in from the ISD to evaluate him. Nothing ever happened. Behavior would ebb and flow. They'd say, "He's doing better!" Then the next day, "Here's a list of his problems." Well, this year he has two teachers that are convinced there is something clinically wrong (I'm not saying there's not). So, because they were dragging their feet on bringing in the pro, we took him to a psychologist. That's where things get murky.
The doctor met with my husband and me. He's a nice guy, I work with his wife. We described his outbursts at home. Our main problems stem from a VERY low frustration level, extremely low perseverance, high intensity reactions. Although when tantruming (at just over 4 years old? Shouldn't that have stopped?) he flails his arms and occasionally comes over and fake punches us, he is not overly aggressive with his parents, the baby, or the animals in the house. The doctor listened for about an hour and a half and said, "If the school said nothing, would you be here?" Excellent question. The answer is probably NO. Sure I would be trolling message boards and lamenting on facebook, but probably not seeking out evaluations.
The doctor went out to observe D in his natural state. The school was obviously prepped for it and agreed heartily. They were worried, though, that he wouldn't do the things they saw with someone else there, so they tried for several days leading up to the visit to get his bad behavior on videotape. They couldn't manage it though. This is where things get even more murky. When the doctor reported back to us, he had grave concerns over the "pre-school." He said in the hour plus that he was there, there was no warm interactions between the kids and the teachers. It was mostly the teachers standing to the side, barking orders and making corrections to the kids as they did what they were told. He said only once in the hour did a teacher actually make physical contact with the children, one child was picked up and turned upside down for fun. There are 18 boys and 3 girls in the class, which also causes a bit of a imbalance. He said he saw nothing that placed Dom out of the realm of normal, other kids were playing parallel and not interacting with others, other kids were active and as he says it "sis boom bah kids." He made one mention of when they went to the bathroom. As the boys were peeing the teacher barked "wash your hands!" mid stream. So some of the boys peed on themselves or turned to look at her to get instruction and wizzed everywhere. This caused an issue and upset some and upset the teacher. He said the order of instruction and the method of delivery indicated they were inexperienced. Again, it is just a "daycare" center not a real pre-school. However, they have been kind to our family over the years, I feel I owe them.
Then D went to be evaluated by the doctor himself. I was there with him. He was pleasant and friendly, took a book and "read" to the doctor. He was extremely candid about not liking school, not liking his friends, not wanting to go to school. It is a struggle to get there in the morning, it is a struggle to get him into bed at night when he realizes he has to go the next day. The doctor, in the brief meeting with him, declared that he seemed pretty typical, perhaps bright but we can't tell yet, and perhaps it was a school fit problem.
Then the teacher reports came in. I'm sure some of you (I know, as a teacher I am) are well versed with the Connors scale-type forms. Well, we didn't use that one, but ASEBA. Unfortunately the only one that the doctor's office was licensed to use was the School Age 6-16. I filled one out, my husband filled one out (separately from me) and three teachers filled one out. My evaluation pinged for borderline agressive issues, my husbands was normal across the board (of course, he's like a big ostrich when it comes to conflict and he's the boatman of the river in Egypt if you know what I mean). Then there was the teachers' forms. Teacher 1 pinged high for Anxious/Depressed, Withdrawn/Depressed, Aggressive, Thought Problems, Conduct Disorder, ODD, and Affective Issues. Teacher 2 pinged high for Aggressive, ODD, Thought Problems, Externalizing AND Internalizing issues. Teacher 3, who had been there for 3 weeks before evaluation, pinged off EVERYTHING. He came back as a little Columbine shooter-type. They would write "touches penis, sucks thumb" and then circle 2s for "compulsive behavior." They wrote, "Interrupts conversation and demands to know what people were talking about" under strange ideas and paranoia. They said his main issues are being possessive of toys, and marked 2s for things like "destroys property of others" and writes "building blocks" next to it.
The doctor was very kind. He kept trying to tell me that the forms aren't the end all be all. But if the people who spend the majority of time with your kid are like "He's fucking nuts! He needs therapy!" what are you supposed to think? They gave us copies of these forms and I keep looking to them and trying to figure out where we went wrong here. My husband believes he's just bored, especially since they marked "far above grade level" on "academics" BUT IT'S PRESCHOOL. I'm getting a feeling the doctor thinks the teachers are morons and don't understand the gravity of circling "hears voices and stares blankly" when he clearly doesn't hear voices. As a teacher I'd hate to think they are "out to get him," but he's a pariah. I walk in every day and they give me a laundry list IN FRONT OF HIM of the things he's done wrong. His teacher clearly does not actually like her job and seems very tired, but the job is hard, I hate faulting people for that!
So I'm stuck. The doctor said, "I wouldn't fault you for looking at other pre-school options." There are a TON around here. I went to one and it was like a little elysium. It was 12 kids, 4 teachers, and the director was like a fairy godmother. D went for a visit day, and did not act out once, but it was only 2 hours. She said, "Oh he seems normal." I worry though that a kid with all these Lord of the Flies daycare habits will stick out like a sore thumb in a place like that. Also, they don't take babies, so we'd have to stretch next year and get a nanny for the younger son for 9 months until he is of age and can go there. There are also other centers around here, more expensive, that use some kind of conflict resolution that is proactive. I don't know the details, I am going to visit them in the next two weeks. Still, what are the implications of taking a kid from the only "school" he's ever known, who does have kids who hug him goodbye every day, etc? I don't want to do any more damage. Especially if there is something clinically wrong with him and we're just trading the devil we know for the devil we don't.
Thanks for letting me vent. We certainly are at an impasse now. I hesitate to talk to the director of the center. I don't want to be harsh and say "So, it seems to be a school fit issue, because you don't pay attention to him." Obviously I knew that was going to happen. If I wanted him to be paid attention to, I would have stayed home like he wants me to (which he says all the time like a good little Limbaugh). My younger son's room also has major issues, but I won't go into those.
If anyone has dealt with things like this, I'd love to have some advice. It seems like yes, there is an issue with the school, but it also seems like we're on a precipice of a diagnosis and I'm the only one to see it.
Honestly, your kid sounds normal and he probably is bored. We went through similar issues with N's behavior at that age, because he was bored out of his mind at his preschool (he is academically way above grade level, even now, and we skipped him up a grade). Although, we didn't have the issues with the school that it seems you are having--our daycare was wonderful. But when N's behavior started getting the best of everybody, we put him into martial arts, just to give him something to do and someplace to channel the aggression. And I never thought I'd be one of those moms, but that class has worked wonders for both my kids. They really stress discipline and self confidence and are very anti-bullying (from both sides--they teach the kids how to deal with bullies and also not to be one). It has been amazing and N will be testing for his black belt next weekend.
I'd get him into a different daycare asap, honestly. And probably put him in some extra class/activity that he wants to do to help to keep the boredom at bay. Maybe he does have some issues, but I'd believe the doctor that even if he does, it probably isn't anything too severe, and that place sounds just awful for him.
I think he sounds all right too - I suspect his behavior is motivated by boredom and dislike of his situation. (considering that I'm not a doctor nor a teacher, feel free to take that with a grain of salt.) I think a change of scenery may help clear up the murkiness of the situation, in terms of diagnosing any particular behavioral problem.
I've twice switched my daughter from situations that felt like they weren't working for us, and I didn't have any regrets either time. The first time was when she was an infant. The second time was when she was 2.5, and she just seemed unhappy in her preschool. On the first day of her new school they said she was so comfortable that it seemed she had been going there for years.
I also have a friend who is going through a divorce, and her four-year old was having a tough time with it behaviorally. The daycare she had been using called her in several times to discuss his behavior and they had very little tolerance or willingness to work with him. She switched him to a new daycare that is willing to work with her and they are both doing much better.
So I guess my point is that change is not always bad. I think you should go with your gut on what is best for your child, and I wouldn't worry about him sticking out or being a burden to them.
I'm with the "change schools" crowd. I see many of my clients in pre-schools or daycare centers, and I see the pariah effect ALL. THE. TIME. It infuriates me. To me it sounds like he has an intense personality, acted out a few times and the teachers got it into their heads that he's a bad seed. It really does happen a lot and I've found that once that happens it's very difficult to change the dynamic.
And I've moved my kids schools for various reasons and as DonnaKat said, change is definitely not always bad. My kids both ended up much happier.
And just boo and an internet hug for the stress of all this. Why isn't parenting easier??
New daycare. Now. That place, honestly, sounds awful. Between the doctor's concerns (which, if that's their "polished" version because he was there, I'm worried about what's going on when no one's watching) and their reading the "laundry list" in front of him, I would have really big beef with their methods. My kiddo is about to turn 4 and can absolutely tell when he's being discussed, and feels very embarrassed and sometimes acts out as a result of those bad feelings. My recommendation is to get him into a new place that uses positive discipline, and when you come in, have a sit-down with the school where you're honest about the methods used by the last place he was at (I wouldn't bring it up as an issue with him, yet - I feel fairly convinced that his behavioral stuff was environmental, so give him a chance in a new place and see what happens) and let them know he'll have an adjustment period, and ask them to be extra careful about it and very welcoming.
I'll also just add that kids mirror the conflict resolution used by the adults around them - if they're barking and yelling and not using de-escalation techniques or positive, connecting communication tactics with the kids, then the kids aren't going to use them either. It's likely that the other kids aren't doing much better than yours, or that your kid's personality just reacts particularly strongly to the adults' methods. Yet another reason to move him so that he can learn other ways to communicate.
Change schools. It's not your kid.
I'm so, so sorry to hear this and I'm sorry you are having to deal with it. But I think I have to agree with the change schools crowd. Whatever the daycare was in the past, it doesn't seem to be that place anymore, so you don't have to owe them loyalty. If you found a place you like, go for it. Or get a temp to permanent nanny while you look. To ease your conscious about losing the friends, set up some playdates for Saturdays.
He also shouldn't need to be bored. There are ways to set up a preschool classroom to make room for kids of many intellectual abilities. Switch the setting, then go from there.
I agree with everyone else. Switch schools, especially after the doctor implied you should. The teachers and environment don't sound great at all and you don't owe them anything. Their evaluations sound (at least in part) ridiculous. Of course he interrupts conversations, he's 4--that's what they do. How do they know he's hearing voices and not pretending?
As far as being advanced academically, everyone tells me that my 4 year old fits in that category, too. I've been told to look for a play-based pre-school, where the kids won't be drilled with numbers and letters and shapes and colors; this way he won't get a chance to be bored--no kid will be that bored with playing, painting, building with blocks, making creative projects, going outside, etc.
If there is something to diagnose, you'll know about it soon enough anyway, but there probably isn't.
I agree with the masses: change schools. I don't think that you'll be able to tell what's what until you give him a chance in another environment.
I have nothing more to add besides what has already been said, except that anything you owe them has probably already cleared the bank.
Oh, and my six-year-old has more frequent, and more intense, tantrums than my two-year-old. So yeah...I don't think four is too old for tantrums. But maybe I'm an ostrich too :)