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.
I was nervous about changing schools as well and it was the best decision we made. I doubt the school that has nothing good to say about him is going to feel bad to have him leave which all by itself should tell you he's in the wrong place. As a teacher you know that the challenging kid can pull on your heart the most - if they don't love him then pull him.
Ditto everyone else. You said you had a whole bunch available, have you called the county to see what some of the complaints/positive comments are for other licensed facilities near you? You may even find out a bunch of complaints have been lodged against your current one. We used these methods to find Ebay's care. We may not agree with some of Sajida's opinions, but she loves that kid to pieces and that love has been more beneficial for Ebay than the things we don't agree with (which are very minor, things like TV time).
I smiled when I read the doctor's comment "If the school said nothing, would you be here?" That is a perceptive person. What he reported seeing was no doubt much better than usual, so I'm scared of that facility.
Thursday I came to pick D up from school and his classroom was dark. I thought they were outside, but the teachers were standing in the room staring. Well, sure enough every kid was, sorry un-PC, Indian-style, each about 4 feet from anyone else. The lead teacher had obviously been crying. I said, "Um, hi?" and she began blubbering, "Do you have any ideas of how to control them? They were crawling under the tables for nap time." I thought she was kidding, but then she reiterated, "No, really...anything?" I felt horrible for her. I went out and THOUGHT I was helping by getting the director and saying, "I think so-and-so needs a bit of a break." Then D and I left. The next morning I find out they fired her. Apparently she had done something like that several times in the past few months. I wondered how long they had been like that. They wake up from nap about 2:45 and I got there at about 3:45. So about an hour. I guess every time someone talked she went over and verbally criticized them for not behaving. I feel badly that she got fired. I wasn't out to get her fired, just get her some support, which they clearly do not have. The whole center is basically imploding. I've seen so many frankly illegal things happening in the past 6 months, it's scary. Several families from his classroom have just left.
Frankly, I'm kind of proud my kid was able to sit facing a wall for an hour. That's like Navy SEAL type mental discipline, right? Of course it could explain the nightmares he has about school. Or the fact that I have to drag him in every day. On Friday morning he cried so badly that he sucker punched me when I tried to put him down in his classroom. He told me, "School is where you go to be sad.
Yes, we are looking at other options next year, but the best pre-schools are part time, don't take infants, or are about 3k a month for both kids, which is much more than my actual take home after taxes. Sigh.
I'm really confused by what I hear from the US about daycare and preschools (and to be frank, elementary, middle and high school as well).
In Ontario, we have for the under 3 set, 2 options.
1) In home daycare: which can be licensed (and must be if you want the baby-sitters insurance to cover your kids in her house and to get a tax receipt). I believe the legal limit on kids in an in-home daycare is no more than 5 kids. Average cost per day varies but it's around $30-$40 a day for full day care.
2) Licensed daycare centre: Licensed by the government, these are centres that cover a range of different age groups and kid:teacher ratio is mandated by age (1:3 for infants, 1:5 for toddlers etc.). Cost for infant care is on average $45-$60 a day and it's hard to find. Preschool goes down to about $25-$35 a day and it's easy to find.
Obviously your milage may vary from person to person and centre to centre but having been in a few different ones, they're very similar... and you have to have a 2 year college diploma to work in one of these centres.
When you get into preschool (3-5) range, you either have the above options, a coop preschool (where you participate in the programming and caregiving) or very rarely, a Montessori or Waldorf-philosophy style school (prepare to pay through the nose). But those options are so extremely rare outside of a handful of major urban centres, and so much more expensive than "regular" daycare. At 4 kids here legally start school (called Junior Kindergarten).
While my regular daycare is more than double my mortgage when all 3 kids are in it... the quality and consistency is quite reasonable. I have never been concerned for my kids safety, health or well being in any of these situations.
So I'm horrified and very disturbed by your story, bap2. Is there not a similar mandate in the for who can work in a daycare centre, what kind of training they have to have, what kind of ongoing education they have to take to continue working? Or even ratio of kids to teachers?
Bap, that is crazy. I really hope you are able to get him to a new place.
There are state-mandated ratios, wookie, though not educational requirements.
Bap, that's totally bonkers. I feel really bad for that teacher but DAMN. Time for a new career. Were there assistant teachers in the room too? (I don't know why I'm bothering to ask if there's other illegal stuff going on too).
I hope you're able to get him to a new place soon.
Wow. Just wow.
I am so sorry, Bap.
One piece of somewhat unsolicited unrelated advice: I wish you didn't have to think about the daycare cost being related to your salary. They are his kids, too? You've said many times that you need to work for your own sanity. Mentally, split the daycare costs between the two salaries. And as someone who has been home longer than she probably should have, staying home is not as cheap as I thought it would be. I get bored. I invent hobbies. They are expensive. My kid also needs entertained. We pay for music or science or dance classes. I pay for art supplies. In fact, we still pay for preschool. I meet up with other at-home friends or unemployed friends for lunch because I need to talk to an adult sometime. I pay for a sitter when I have to go to certain doctor's appointments. And of course, take-home pay doesn't tell the whole story. Your employer contributes to social security and so do you. Blah, blah, solvency--it is still a form of retirement savings. Any other retirement savings at work? Any continuing ed that is paid for? And you may not re-enter the workforce at the pay that you left it at.
I may be out of line, but too frequently I hear people talk about the cost of working and I just wanted the chance to raise my hand and said "but there's a cost to not working, too."
Edited to add: I do get the childcare stress, though. We're still on a waitlist for a daycare from a year and a half ago. We went through 3 nannies, 2 before they even started. We were in one daycare for a week. It's not pretty out there. And I know it contributes to my lack of enthusiasm for finding another job--I think I could probably find a job for me faster than I could find childcare, which would be a big problem.
What a miserable situation. I'm so sorry.
I am so sorry, that sounds like a horrible, horrible mess. I hope something good comes soon for you all.
And yes, I have never calculated cost of school in terms of my salary alone. Spouse and I both chose to have a child, and even though I make far less money, it was never a consideration that one of us would quit working. We both have careers we value.
That sounds really bad. I agree with all the get him the heck out of there folks.
He may have issues, but they definitely do.
That sounds horrible. I'm sorry, hon.