Grade retention. Being held back. Repeating a grade. These words strike fear into the hearts of students and parents alike.
After our struggling first-grader tried occupational therapy, vision therapy, ADHD diagnostics, tutoring and medications, my husband and I reached the end of interventions.
Then, it dawned on us.
Perhaps she didn’t need another educational psychologist; perhaps, she just needed more time.
While I’d love to say we were given a list of tools from the professionals we consulted, kids do not come with road maps. So, here is what to expect if you’re facing “first (or any) grade, Part II.”
1. Allow your child to have feelings; expect all of them
This may be the bravest thing a child will tackle, so don’t reason their concerns away. I had our daughter, Sara, draw her feelings; then, we talked through tools she could use to manage her emotions. Some days it worked miracles, and some days I just had to survive her tantrums.
2. Hitting pillows is OK… really
“You can hit pillows, but you cannot hurt yourself, others or things.” I know how desperate you are feeling if you resort to this advice. You are imagining your child doing something drastic. I promise, it’s just a pillow, and she’s only 7. It will be OK.
3. Notify friends’ parents
Do this before their kids ask, “Why was Sara in the wrong grade today?” I let Sara choose the date I sent it.
4. Manage play dates carefully
The experts will tell you to help your child make new friends over the summer.
This is a great idea for tame child creatures.
I do not have one, which came into stark focus the day I pulled Sara out of a play date screaming at the top of her lungs. I changed my tactic to, “Hey! I talked with Bella’s mom today! She is so excited to sit next to you this year! Can I send a hello back from you?”
5. Be willing to switch schools
But ask your child what he or she wants. Sara’s school was a great fit. She had an excellent relationship with her teacher and wanted to stay there, so we kept her in the same classroom.
6. BE PATIENT
For many months after Sara started her second year in the same grade, she attempted to veto our decision. She ate only with her teachers and played alone on the playground, despite being surrounded by 20 wonderful girls. We gently encouraged her to join in, and stayed the course.
Within the first few weeks of first grade, Part II, a remarkable change occurred.
She no longer fell asleep on the way home from school. Her attitude about her learning disability turned into a can-do perseverance. She dove into her academics in an immersive way.
Her world turned on like a light switch.
Sara is now entering sixth grade. She has a delightful group of friends. She is an award-winning flutist and lives for cross-country season.
Dyscalculia paired with ADHD is not an easy road, but her story includes an unusual ability to solve problems and be creative. Sara will gladly tell you she would not change a single thing about herself. She will also tell you repeating first grade was the intervention that made all the difference.
Wisdom does not come easily or without sweat equity. Wisdom comes suddenly.