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.
OKAY, that was so hard to read. I can't imagine how hard that whole experience must have been for all of you. Actually...I can, because we went through something sort of similar last year.
In our case, it was both the school and my son's Aspergers. It was a tough decision to pull him out of his elementary school because he had good friends there, and because kids with Aspergers don't do well with any sort of routine disruption, and because it is a very popular public K-8 that we got a space in through a lottery. But it was the same thing you describe here; the first grade teachers had no fucking clue how to deal with Aspergers and one of the teachers clearly had a lot of baggage with my son. Kids' emotional issues press all kinds of buttons for adults. I wouldn't be surprised if that's what's happening at your daycare, too.
Now that we're at a more suitable school, my son's behavior is much better, simply because school is no longer adversarial. The teachers know how to work with him. It's like night and day. But he still has Aspergers. I took him to Trader Joe's the other day and he was ticking and stimming all over the place just from the routine disruption and sensory input. But at school and at home, he can pass as "normal," or at least "quirky." Stress exacerbates the behavior.
Here's what I would do:
- Pull him out of that daycare ASAP and never look back. Tell other parents who have children enrolled there what the psychologist said.
- When he is six, if there are still concerns, have him evaluated again. By then you'll have a clearer picture of what's a phase and what's not.
- You may also want to do academic testing to see if he's (forgive the antiquated term) "gifted." Sometimes gifted children present as having Aspergers or ADHD for different reasons. And sometimes, as in my son's case, they may have Aspergers or ADHD and also are gifted.
Again, SO sorry you had to go through that. Your son will be fine. Children are very resilient. But big hugs to you, because this shit is downright traumatic for us mothers. Keep us posted!
Wow. Run like the wind. I am surprised at how empathetic you are to the school and the teachers. Don't feel bad about that woman getting fired. That job was not for her and she was harming the children in that classroom.
Also, I understand (very strongly) the desire to put your child in what is perceived as the best preschool, but you might be pleasantly surprised at what is a good fit for you and your family--it may not be the high-end Montessori. We are in that situation. I love Baby Grey's preschool/daycare overall and it isn't the fancy Montessori our daughter attended (which we loved, but it was also in Maryland and we aren't there any more). We're saving quite a bit of money by sending my son to this preschool as opposed to one of our new locale's "best" preschools and he's very happy.
I would leave that school and leave them copies of the doctor's report, and perhaps send a copy and your complaint with the school to the city licensing agency. Whatever is going on there sounds bad.
Your loyalty needs to be to the children - there are parents who might not see what you see or know that they can expect better. You need to report and document what you have seen. If the school can't improve it needs to close.
What about smaller home-run establishments? Are there none of these in your area? I know that some of my friends have chosen home-run (generally unlicensed) facilities for their kids because they knew the caregiver personally. As I'm writing this, though, I'm thinking that doing anything unlicensed in the U.S. is probably a big no-no (I'm in Canada).
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.
In most states, home day cares can be licensed or registered with the state or city. They are two different things. Registering just means that they go on a state or city list of day care centers (I think only paperwork is on file with the governing agency--there are no agency visits and no mandatory compliance terms; maybe it varies state to state). Licensed home day cares actually agree to comply with all terms of being whatever defines a licensed center and they are supposed to have periodic (2x/yr or so) visits from the accrediting agency. They have to follow the same guidelines as any commercial day care center. You can obtain reports from these agencies to see if the day care is in compliance or if any complaints have been filed.
So, if you know someone who provides in-home care or you have friends who send their kids somewhere like that, then great! Otherwise, it's kind of a crapshoot.