A Quick Guide on Redshirting for Kindergarten

Kindergarten.

For many families, this is a day that many kids and parents have been looking forward to for a long time. There might be a few tears on both sides, but in general, it’s a big step towards growing up for a child.

Some parents, however, hesitate at this idea. Nine percent of kindergarten-age children are “academically redshirted” each year, according to Very Well Family

This is the decision to hold a child back a year, even if they are the correct age for school. The cut off is different by state, and even by county. For example, the cut off in Jefferson County, Kentucky is now August 1. It was still October 1 when Lily went to kindergarten in 2014.

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The School Debate

Cameron and Lily have January and February birthdays, so they are among the first to have birthdays in their classes. Cameron finds it hilarious that when he turns 15, he will be one of the first freshmen to do so. Lily will be 12 in the middle of her 6th-grade year. Julian, however, has a July birthday. He is usually one of, if not the youngest, in his class. He will graduate at 17, which he thinks is great. However, I almost redshirted him.

Julian has always been small for his age, even before the Vyvanse stunted his growth. That wasn’t a concern, because he can most certainly take care of himself. If not, Cameron is a good backup.

When Julian was about to start kindergarten, however, he had not yet been diagnosed and I wasn’t sure he was ready- socially. He is a very smart kid, but he was aggressive, hyper and destructive. I was afraid kindergarten would be a disaster. His second year of preschool was not going well- we got notes once a week about his behavior, and most of them were not great.

At home, he was so aggressive towards his siblings that they wouldn’t even play with him. This was a huge change from the boys getting into things together. Lily couldn’t talk well, but she knew to stay away.

I debated for months on whether to send him to kindergarten or not. I went ahead with it because I didn’t want whatever issues he had to further hold him back. I thought that he would get worse if I held him back. Plus, I didn’t think a third year of preschool would go well if that was even a possibility.

Julian was enrolled and I hoped for the best.

He hid under the cafeteria table at kindergarten orientation. I have never forgotten this. I was embarrassed, horrified and anxious at the same time. I had to peel his small hands off the table legs to get him to go with the teachers and other kids.

Kindergarten was as rough as I had anticipated, complete with meltdowns at school. He did get a full neuropsychological evaluation in November 2011 and thankfully was diagnosed with ADHD (combined) and autism (at the time, Asperger’s, now referred to as High Functioning Autism).

He was also medicated for ADHD. This helped a lot. His school helped by creating a 504 Plan, which assisted with behavioral issues. He later received an IEP in the 5th grade.

Am I glad that I sent Julian to school on time? Yes. Had we held him back, I think his issues may have gotten worse. He would have been bored, and that would have created a lot more problems for everyone.

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Do You Need a Red Shirt?

Of course, this is an individual decision, and it’s not an easy one. Let’s look at the pros and cons of redshirting a child.

Pros:

  • Less likely to need special education services
  • Less likely to be singled out for negative behavior because they had more time to work on social skills at home/preschool
  • Better motor skills
  • Increased social confidence
  • Reading and math are usually at or above where their peers are

Cons:

  • In the adolescent years, difficulty making and maintaining friendships
  • losing a year of special education services (if needed) due to starting school late
  • May mask learning issues
  • Another year of preschool tuition

Questions to ask yourself while debating the issue:

  • What are the other factors, besides age, makes you feel that your child isn’t ready for kindergarten?
  • If your child has been to preschool, how is that going? Does the teacher feel that your child is ready? Are there concerns?
  • What does your district expect your child to know before going to kindergarten? You can look on their website for this information. Some, like JCPS (Jefferson County Public Schools), have kindergarten readiness programs during the summer to make sure kids are ready.
  • If your child does sit out a year, what will they do during that time to be ready for kindergarten next school year?
  • Does your child have any delays or other developmental issues? If so, can these be addressed once they are in school?

There is so much to consider before sending your child to school, and this may add to the anxiety. This topic is becoming more popular among parents of young children. Take time to think about it if you need to, consult with outside professionals if necessary. Most of all, do what is best for your child.

Did you redshirt your child? Did it go well, or did you regret the decision? Let me know in the comments!

Pics courtesy of unsplash

Information courtesy of Very Well Family

My Fearless Leader

There’s a common saying in the autism parenting community that I love: “Autism is a journey I never planned but I sure do love my tour guide.”

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, this post is for Julian. He is now 12, almost as tall as me, and is still my lookalike. Most of all, he is what his psychiatric nurse practitioner calls “well-loved”.

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In a firetruck at the 2018 FEAT Autism Walk

Back to the Beginning

When he was five, I had no idea what we were in for. I just knew that he needed me and more help than I could give him. I doubted myself so much because even with all of my knowledge and work, I still couldn’t manage him.

I dreaded going out in public because it was a risk- he was a runner. What if he ran off? What if he had a meltdown? His meltdowns were loud and lasted at least a half hour. I made my trips as short as possible. I went out alone when I could so I didn’t have to worry about chasing a very fast kid.

School was a tougher topic. He struggled to sit through kindergarten and didn’t like his teacher but loved her assistant. Even after his ADHD and autism diagnosis and medication, he continued to stay away from his peers. He remained quiet, barely speaking to anyone. Julian was in his own world, both at home and at school.

It turns out that’s a personality trait- he is my quietest child. He won’t talk to people he doesn’t know and needs prompting sometimes to speak to those he does. Eye contact is non-existent and I don’t force it. As long as I see that he’s looking at my face, I know he is listening.

The Road to Now

Julian has spent a lot of his childhood in therapy. He started with a social worker in 2013, a psychiatrist, who recommended group therapy while he was in third grade, and now he sees Ann, his nurse practitioner, once a month.

Group therapy helped more than anything else. I had to pay out of pocket for it because insurance wouldn’t cover it.

I didn’t care.

It was worth every penny. He learned skills that he can use for the rest of his life- sharing, talking about himself in a group, handling challenging emotions, and other topics.

Julian struggles with empathy, even after that was a theme in the group. We work on this a lot. He may say something that hurts another person’s feelings but doesn’t get why.

I explain to him why what he said was not so nice and that he needs to think things out a bit more before speaking (hilarious for me to say that because I am the wrong parent for this) and apologize. Sometimes this works, sometimes I lose him.

Julian also developed a sense of humor. For a while, we weren’t sure if he had one. He didn’t get sarcasm and was so serious. I had to explain jokes to him.

He has been fearless pretty much since he could walk. There have been incidents that resulted in broken bones, staples, stitches and other assorted injuries. None of these things stopped him. As he’s gotten a little older, he has learned to hesitate a little, but he’s still the first to get into something.

Birthday pic

Eating his 4th birthday cake with a cast

Humor finally hit him and I was thrilled. His humor is dry but we appreciate it. Sarcasm is still not a thing for him but it’s not for everyone.

Julian thinks in incredibly concrete ways. He eats certain foods (pretzels are life) in a certain way. He thinks things should happen in a particular order and doesn’t always get why it doesn’t happen like he thinks it should.

However, he’s very smart. Seventh grade has gone well- his IEP focuses on his handwriting (it needs improvement) along with other goals. His grades are good and his best subjects are math and science. He’s always been talented in those subjects.

In many ways, Julian is like most 12-year-olds- he loves playing on his Xbox 360 and riding his bike. He thinks the prank videos on YouTube are the funniest things he’s ever seen. There are just a few quirks involved.

I’m Not an Expert

I read a lot about autism. I worked with kids all over the spectrum for almost five years. I’ve been injured in the process but loved the work. It truly changes you and how you see the world.

Still, I am not an expert. I do not know what it is like to be Julian. I do not know what it is like to be in the lunchroom full of noisy kids and have to block it out so you can eat and try to talk to your friends. I do not know what it feels like to be super bored for a minute or two in class but yet, it feels like forever.

I do, however, know the feeling of wanting to hug a wonderful child who won’t let me because he hates the feeling. I know exactly how it feels to watch your child yell loudly over the shape of pasta because it’s not the right one. This has happened, but not in years.

I’ve often wanted to take a trip inside Julian’s mind, but I know this is impossible. Since I can’t, I try hard to remember where he is and help him through his needs. We don’t let him have everything he wants, because that simply isn’t how the world works. We do, however, make accommodations when we can.

Julian has been an adventure to raise. The road has been a bit bumpy but I will stay with him forever.

Therapy pic

Yay! He finished therapy (2015)

If you are the parent/caregiver of a special needs child, how has the path been for you? Please share in the comments.

Tips for Parenting from Baby to Middle School

Opinions are everywhere.

So are your kid’s toys, the cat’s litter and the contents of your purse.

Or is that just me?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s a weird world that we live in- everyone has something to say. Some of us feel the need to live up to expectations that aren’t exactly healthy.

I am not one of those parents.

I was many moons ago, and there’s a post to tell that story.

The Baby and Toddler Stage.. Take A Deep Breath

Babies are adorable. They’re all soft, cuddly and you just want to hold them forever.

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Avery, my little buddy.

Until that first blowout diaper. I’m here to tell you, it’s one of the many gross things you will witness as a parent. Once you see that diaper, you will want to cry and throw the whole day away. As in hit the restart button and pause right before your baby created that horrible mess.

They sleep about as much as cats, at least for a while. Once they sleep all night, life becomes somewhat decent again. Then comes the solid food stage, in which they insist on smearing everywhere. It makes for great pictures but horrible cleanup. Babies also become mobile, and that’s when the real fun begins. It’s when we stop being able to have nice things.

Toddlers are known to be tiny terrors. They can destroy your home in about 15 seconds or less if given the opportunity. They also have the capacity to be the cutest little people you will ever lay eyes on. “Oh, wait, I have a voice and it gets loud? Wait, hold my sippy cup while I scream because Mom changed the channel.”

My friend Melanie had a hashtag #ReasonsWhyMyToddlerIsCrying while her son Elliott was a toddler and it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. My kids threw wild tantrums and I am glad I lived through this phase.. barely. I went through three toddlers in a short amount of time.

How can you survive this phase?

  • Sleep. Try to sleep when the baby sleeps, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Sleep the best you can at night. Try for some sort of schedule if you can, you will thank yourself later. My kids still have a sleep schedule and they’re much older.
  • Breathe. Take lots of deep breaths. Meditate if you need to. It helps keep you calm.
  • Humor. You will need this when your two-year-old has discovered what a Sharpie is.
  • Backup. Backup needs to be a thing from day one. You will need it until your child moves out, or so it seems.
  • Learn about your child. Every child is different and they change over time. This will help greatly when people start giving advice you really don’t need.
  • Self-care. This should be a priority. Forever.

The Preschool Life

This stage is kind of fun. Kids at this age want to learn about everything. They ask a million and two questions before lunch, and they’re learning to express themselves. This might be about the time they learn to dress. That can be a lot of fun- I had a blast with Lily’s outfits. They’re also learning to interact with others outside their family.

Snowball pic

Lily and the snowball

I didn’t think about how expensive preschool was until both boys were in it together. YIKES. It’s not getting any cheaper, so if that’s your thing, you might want to start looking into it when your child is an infant if they aren’t already in daycare.

My kids never went to daycare. Their grandmothers watched them while I worked and finished school then went straight to preschool. Julian had a rough time in preschool, but Cameron and Lily did great. Lily’s road to preschool was not an easy one thanks to her delays. We almost didn’t get her potty trained in time.

Speaking of potty training…

How do you get through this phase?

  • Lots of patience. Potty training does not happen in one day. I do not care what book you read. If you have potty trained a child in one day, please email me. I’d love to know what you did. Julian broke his foot while he was being potty trained and had a cast almost up to his knee. I cannot express how much fun that was. He had a boot on, but it still impeded his speed in getting to the potty. We started late with Lily due to the therapies for her delays and she continued to have accidents well after her fourth birthday. It was not easy. Patience is required in all aspects of parenting but potty training will wear a parent out!
  • Humor. Preschoolers do a lot of funny things. They also say even funnier things.
  • Have a camera. Thanks to smartphones, this is super easy. You will want to take a million pics during this time. They’re always into something. It’s just the question of what.
  • What’s a clean house? If everyone living in it is clean, then the rest is a bonus.
  • Routine is good. Bonus if it actually gets followed daily. We try very hard.
  • Grow an extra set of eyes in the back of your head. Preschoolers are into everything. They want to learn about the world around them and sometimes that means a little bit of adventure. It can also mean doing things they know they probably shouldn’t. Since we can’t really grow eyes in the back of our heads, backup is a good idea.
  • Self- care. These little people take a lot out of us and we need to recharge.

Time for School!

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Thanksgiving 2015

I may joke about it now, but I was sad about sending my kids to school. I cried a little when Lily went to her first day of kindergarten because she’s my youngest and I realized my 5 lb, 12 oz baby wasn’t really a baby anymore. It was a little crushing. She’s now months away from middle school. I may or may not cry at her 5th-grade graduation.

Some kids do not do well with the kindergarten adjustment. Julian was one of those kids. He was diagnosed later that year and that helped somewhat. Kindergarten is a big change- the building, more adults, kids, the routine, and more. Julian is not a fan of big changes, so this was not on his list of fun things to do. He did better in the other years.

Kids in this stage grow so quickly! I sent Cameron to elementary school in 2010 and he finished in 2015 almost as tall as me! They learn a lot, make friends and lots of things in the middle.

How do you get through your baby not being a baby anymore?

  • Let them be who they are. My kids have tried different things to see if they liked them or not, and this is fine. Lily tried playing the trumpet but didn’t like having to play in front of others. Julian ran cross country in 5th grade because he’s always been a fast runner. Cameron loves basketball and plays whenever he can. He won’t try out for a team, (I think) because he’s afraid to mess with his heart (he has SVT and is cleared to play by his cardiologist).
  • Watch them form their own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. You may be surprised at what they have learned from you. Be proud of yourself for teaching them well.
  • Let them make their own friends. Of course, step in if there’s something dangerous going on. Kids like to hang out with who they like, not who Mom picks.
  • Let them solve their own problems as they get older. This isn’t meant for a kindergartner, but fifth graders can figure out some things.
  • Take all the pictures they will allow. Pretty soon, you will hear “Mom. Stop taking pictures. It’s annoying.”
  • Humor. Humor is a parenting requirement.

The Parenting Struggle…The Middle School Edition

If you’ve seen my Instagram page, this is one of my often-used hashtags. Middle school is a struggle, for parents and kids. Kids are trying to figure out who they are, what their bodies are doing, and as parents, we’re just trying to make sure they’re okay and keeping them fed.

If you have boys, the last one can be a challenge. I have two- I don’t know where the food goes but the wrappers are everywhere.

Kids are smarter than we realize. They, for the most part, are more accepting than many adults are. I think it is a combination of not caring and how they are taught. I’ve done my best to teach my kids to accept others for who they are and not what they look like or what their racial makeup is. I’ve been the kid left out because I was biracial and that is damaging. I would never let my kids do that to someone else.

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Julian and the Gorilla

The struggles? There are many- smelly feet, testosterone, explaining racism and other injustices, discussing drugs and alcohol (especially when you are 2 years sober), homework, grades in general and lots more.

This is the age in which kids start learning from their friends and not asking Mom or Dad about everything- Cameron learned about bisexuality from a friend of his. I guess when you’re 14, this is on the list of things you don’t ask Mom about.

How does this phase work?

  • Talk to your child. I cannot stress this enough. I don’t mean sit them down and interrogate them but just casual talk is good. They need to know you are there for them and that you care.
  • Boundaries. Let them know what you will and will not tolerate. We’re parents, not their besties.
  • Let them come to you if they have a problem. No judgment allowed. If you judge, they won’t confide in you.
  • Remind them of the importance of good grades, enforce homework rules, etc.
  • Give them space. They need it.
  • Knock before entering. You will regret this the one time you don’t.
  • Humor. Teens are funny and humor helps in almost all situations.
  • Let them be who they are. They are figuring out who they are. This takes a while.

Parenting is an adventure. It is not meant to be easy. We are, however, meant to have the children that we were given. I didn’t realize this until Julian was diagnosed.

I thought I had completely messed up as a mom and maybe even as a person, but no, I was given Julian to become a stronger person and much better mom. Enjoy the ride- our kids only get one childhood!

Do you have any tips to get through these stages of childhood? Leave a comment!