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.

Blocks

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.

Bus pic

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”.

Firetruck pic

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.

What I Want My Kids to Know About Friendship

I’ve posted a lot on my social media about the importance of friendship. In the last few years, I’ve had to learn a lot about its true meaning. I think I am a lot better off but I hope that my kids never have to go through losing friends the way I did, or at all. It’s not a good experience.

Bday dinner

Tyson, Ashley and I at Tyson’s bday dinner, 2019

The Things That Really Matter

  • Who is there when things get really bad. Ashley and Stephanie were at my house as soon as they could be after my calls about Jake. My mom recently fell and broke her shoulder in three places. She’s fine, but Tyson told her to get better because he needed someone to punch people for him. (My mom has a wild sense of humor and he knows this.) Scott almost dragged me out of my house for months. Everyone supported me through therapy. Friends are there for you, even when you’re sobbing your way through a bottle of Fireball, can’t talk after thyroid surgery or when you get diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I want them to find friends that are there through the good and bad times.
  • You can make friends in the weirdest places. Sara wins this award. Neither of us imagined making a new best friend in a funeral home, of all places. I just wanted to make sure Jordan was in decent shape (he wasn’t) and say goodbye to Jake, and POOF! there’s Sara. I imagine Jake is somewhere laughing about this. His brothers were absolutely correct in thinking we would make great friends. Our daughters are best friends. Lily is two years older than Bella, but neither of them cares. I want my kids to be open to meeting people wherever they go, because you never know what might happen.
  • What’s special needs? Thanks to Julian, Cameron, and Lily probably have a great insight into how to treat someone with special needs. They have been taught to care for those that are different and not leave them out. Ironically, Julian’s bestie also has ADHD. Kids with special needs need friends too, and they can teach our kids a lot.
  • Find good friends and hang onto them. I have known Ashley since middle school, Stephanie since junior year of high school, but I have known Tyson the longest. We met as first graders. We got separated due to his moving around afterward but after we met back up in high school, it’s been laughs. Stephanie and I have five kids between us. We were pregnant at the same time- Cameron is two months older than her younger daughter, Angelina. (Bonus- her middle name is Wrae, after me.)
  • Know when to let go. Sometimes friendships can be toxic. Some people can start out great for you but when you grow and change, they can’t handle that. It can be hard to let go, especially if it’s been a long time friend, but it’s better than hanging onto a toxic one. If a friend is spreading rumors, not standing up for you or doing worse things, they aren’t a real friend.
  • It’s okay if you don’t have everything in common. There are some things that I love that my friends don’t. I love true crime podcasts and most of my friends think I’m a bit weird. This is okay. It’s what makes everyone different. The main thread is what you do have in common- for example, Ashley and I love “South Park”, really bad 80s music and Mexican food, just for starters.
  • Real friends want to see you happy. No further explanation needed.
  • A small circle is good. This doesn’t mean you’re not popular or that something is wrong with you. I have a small circle of friends and I am okay with that. It’s easier to trust a few people. Julian is not a fan of people and this is okay. As long as he has a couple of people that he likes to hang out with, things are good.

Friendships are important in every part of life. What lessons about friendship do you want your kids to learn?

Tips for Teaching Kids About Disappointment

Kids learn a lot of lessons- not all of them are fun. They learn that if they don’t listen to us, they can get hurt, in trouble, or just maybe, we were right.

They also have to learn about disappointment. Yikes. This can happen after not being able to go out with a friend, not being picked for a team or even after finding out that the store is out of a toy/DVD/something else they wanted. It’s not fun to see the look on their face, but it’s a part of life, right?

Unhappy

Bouncing Back from Let Down

Learning to bounce back is a skill that kids will need to hang onto for life, so it’s important to learn this lesson early. They need to learn that it is okay to ask others for support, communicate in an appropriate way and stay optimistic. It’s best to start with the basics. Some of the following information is from Parents Magazine

  • Teach your child that some things can be changed and some things cannot be changed.  For example, if a storm ruins a trip to the park, explain to your child that we can’t control the rain, but offer a different solution. Also remind them that a tantrum or other negative actions (like whining, my personal pet peeve) will not get them what they want. If your child sulks, choices can save the day.
  • Instead of rushing to fix an issue, let them try to fix it themselves (depending on the age). This may take some time, but your child will learn that they can fix bad situations on their own.
  • Show some empathy. Your child will see that it’s okay to be sad or upset over unexpected things if they see that you aren’t pleased over canceled plans.
  • Create a network of people that your child can talk to when things are a bit rough. Sometimes your child may want to talk to someone else besides their parents and this helps build resilience.
  • Don’t tell them “You’re being a baby”, “It’s not a big deal”, or anything similar. They are kids, but they also have feelings. These phrases make their feelings seem smaller and that hurts as much, if not more than the situation itself.

Time For Processing

Many kids sit in the sadness for a day or so, depending on the situation. We don’t like seeing our kids sad and a bit heartbroken, but this time may give them an opportunity to think things out and come up with an idea of what to do next, how to improve, etc.

They may not even need us to help them. Even if they don’t ask, check in with them to see if they need a listening ear and/or an idea or two on how to move forward. Remind them that you still love them, no matter what. You may get brushed off but it’s probably what they need to hear most.

Listen to your child and validate their feelings. They need you to help them deal with their thoughts. If they need a bit of encouragement, give it. This isn’t the time to demean them or their attempt at making a team, getting into college, etc. Being disappointed is a part of life and part of being a parent is helping them through the rough patches.

Unhappy

Pics courtesy of unsplash

How well do your kids handle disappointment? Do you have a story to share when your child handled it well? Please share in the comments.