The first Friday of kindergarten, Julianna brought home a progress report. In typical kindergarten fashion, it was a list of attributes the kids need to have to be successful students–following directions, self-control, and so on. There are no grades in kindergarten, only +, √, and -. I got quite a shock when I saw her page filled with “-” and a smattering of √s. Not a + on the page anywhere.
Now, I’m sure you will not be surprised to learn that I have been a straight-A student my whole life, a meticulous rule follower. Alex is the same way. So to see a report like this was quite a shock to my system.
Who was she being measured against? What were they trying to communicate? Was she not living up to the standard of a typically-developing kindergartener (in other words, this was par for the course), or was she not living up to what is reasonable to expect for her? Does it matter? After all, if we want her in a regular classroom, we have to expect her to be held to the higher standard–and that’s what we want, right?
Such are the agonies of a parent of a child with special needs.
I didn’t realize it, but I have always taken kindergarten more seriously than preschool. When we needed to go somewhere, I just pulled Julianna out of preschool. We didn’t know all that much about the daily routine–we weren’t able to have a conversation with her about what she did all day, or what they talked about–but that was okay. Preschool was really about intensive therapy.
Kindergarten is a whole new world. This is where she’s actually supposed to be learning academic concepts. This is where she’s actually interacting with typically-developing peers, laying the foundations for whatever life she’s going to live as an adult. Suddenly, the stakes seem so much higher. Suddenly, it bugs me that I don’t know her classmates and she can’t tell me about them–that I don’t know her routines, and she can’t share them.
I went through this with Alex. Sending your child off to school automatically requires the parent to give up some control. The child doesn’t know what you want to know, and you can’t formulate the questions properly to get them to understand. It was very illuminating to go into Alex’s classroom for an hour one morning, and I’m in the baby stage of trying to work out logistics to visit Julianna’s classroom for a peek.
In the meantime, we’re more or less dependent on her teacher, who has been very good about sending us detailed reports. Many of which make us go, “Whaaaa…?” For instance, in the early weeks, when the para was not working directly with her, she would get up and move somewhere else (totally believe that), poke other kids (probably trying to be cute), and pull hair (uh…what?). She was uncooperative in P.E. and adaptive P.E., where there was less structure. Now, Miss Pooey has always been pretty cooperative with non-parental adults, so this caused us some consternation. But we haven’t yet begun enforcing “if…then” consequences with her, because we don’t have the sense that she “gets” it. If we had gotten a report like that on Alex in kindergarten, there would have been repercussions at home: lost movies, etc. But how do we address this with Julianna?
At last I found my entry point. She likes to watch her signing times and “your baby can read” videos from a distance of one inch from the TV screen. We’ve been yelling at her about it for a long time, but I realized suddenly last week that here is an opportunity for immediate consequences. So now, if she goes up to the TV, she loses the privilege. We’ll see if that makes a difference.
I have many other reflections on the experience of sending Julianna to kindergarten, but that’s plenty for one day. This week, she brought home one extra √, and her teacher said the problem behaviors were easing off. So maybe, twenty-five days in to the elementary years, Julianna’s finding her stride. Go get ’em, girly-girl.