Before we get into the whole “kindergarten” fiasco, I thought I’d begin with, well, the beginning. Once upon a time, there was a tiny little baby that made his Momma wait a whole 41 weeks before his appearance in our world was forced upon him. Little bit was not the easiest of babies. He had to be held 24/7. Awake or asleep. He hated all confining things, including swaddling blankets, bassinets, cribs, slings, carriers, car seats and swings.
He was an alert child and hit his milestones early. I clearly remember the day he learned to roll from back to tummy. He laid on the floor for a good hour, practicing over and over and over some more. Until, eventually, he figured it out. He pulled up and cruised in the same day. He walked just at 10 months old.
About the only thing little bit didn’t do early was make consonant sounds. No goo-goo, ga-ga, or da-da. Not until he passed his first birthday. By 18 months, he knew most of the sounds of his letters and could identify them out of sequence. He spoke in full sentences before he was two. By the time he was three, we moved him to a preschool. He far surpassed other kids his age and was quickly moved to the four and five year old room. The three-year-old teacher asked my husband one day if we knew how smart he was. “Yes,” he said, “He’s pretty smart.” She continued to emphasize that it was more than smart and with little bit’s personality, we needed to take it seriously. If we didn’t get ahead of him, he would get in trouble. And it would get worse throughout his life.
She was a retired Montessori teacher with two degrees in child development. I listened.
Knowing a co-worker currently setting out on the struggles of public school and gifted education, and knowing the daily “trouble” reports little bit was getting in his new class, I wanted to begin arming myself with the right knowledge to move forward and advocate for this uniquely complex little boy with so much going on in his tiny mind. So we tested him just a few days beyond his fourth birthday.
Given the WPPSI, the testers decided it’d be best to try the SB5. He was giving “silly” answers on the WPPSI and they didn’t feel this was an accurate assessment. The SB5 yielded gifted results with sub scores hitting the 99th percentile in quantitative and fluid reasoning areas.
At four, little bit knew more about the heart and body than most adults. He was bored. He hated the worksheets presented day after day in preschool. We looked into alternatives. We looked at a Montessori school, but his class would be focused on the “concrete,” and little bit was always thinking in the “abstract.” We moved him to a school that believed in learning through play. And that’s when things really went downhill (and uphill).
You see, like so many gifted kids, little bit struggles with transitions and change. He has mapped out his environment and when it deviates, he doesn’t know what to do. He also listens. So when his favorite teacher moved, he had a day where you’d think he’d become a wild animal. We’re talking screaming, hitting, biting, kicking, spitting uncontrollable mess. I was called to come get him. His teacher told me she’s not allowed to restrain him, so during his next outburst, he ran for the door. He knew they couldn’t actually touch him. He head-butted the “new” teacher. He spit in the director’s face. He lost control. He was moved to another classroom with two teachers he knew and got along with. Two teachers who understood something about gifted kids and could calm him when needed. His remaining time in preschool wasn’t without issue, but it was so much better and I truly felt they loved and cared about my little guy. They did “side” science experiments to feed his little mind. They allowed him to grow.
Enter kindergarten prep. They suggested we enroll him in a pre-kindergarten class offered during the summer with the hopes that it would allow him to transition more smoothly. I met with the principal and counselor of the school. I expressed the concerns and gave examples of what can happen when he experiences huge change. They failed to inform the teacher and on day two, I picked my child up in the principal’s office being lightly restrained. I met with a shocked teacher that had no idea this was possible. I listened to my child tell me he couldn’t breathe and watched his tiny body shaking. And my heart broke for him.
We were met with kindergarten testing and a new principal during sign up for K. They were amazed at how well he did on the testing and said, “he’s ready.” I explained the concerns again and reminded the counselor of the summer fiasco. We met with the teacher he was assigned to and she allowed little bit to come in a week before school started, so he could see the room, spend some time with her, and tour the school.
We have had no major outbursts during this first year of kindergarten. But that hardly means we have not experienced trials. We most certainly have. I was so hopeful we could work together and that the school would work with little bit’s capabilities. I am losing faith and have found myself disheartened by the process. I am learning that advocating for him will take me beyond my comfort zone and that every conversation I have must be thought out fully to avoid being “that” parent. I am learning that I am the only one (along with my husband) that will truly advocate for what he NEEDS. I am learning so much and know so little.