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“Should My Son Repeat Kindergarten?”

When the school advised that my child with ADHD repeat kindergarten, I had a difficult choice to make. Here’s what I did.

Deciding whether a child diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) should repeat kindergarten is a sensitive topic — and one that I have experienced firsthand. While making that decision for my son with ADHD, I found it required many thoughtful conversations with family members and friends, as well as my son’s educators.

I had decided early on that repeating kindergarten might be a possibility; he was young and might need some extra time to catch up with children closer to his age. However, we didn’t make the decision until spring of his first year of kindergarten.

When the teachers first suggested that my son should repeat kindergarten, I thought, “How are we going to tell him?” “Is this the right thing for him?” “How will we tell other people that he is not moving on to first grade?”

These questions concerned me, but I knew that repeating kindergarten was the right thing for my son. Thanks largely to focus and attention challenges from ADHD, he had not grasped many of the concepts taught in kindergarten. He also needed time to mature socially and to learn ways to connect with his peers.

As a speech language pathologist, I recognized these developmental milestones and saw a unique opportunity to give him the tools he needed to be successful. When I met with the elementary school principal, he assured me that my husband and I were making the right decision.

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Before discussing the issue with my son, I reached out to parents who had made the same decision for their child. Not one parent regretted making it. I also sought out resources to guide my family through the process. Guess what? There were none.

So I decided to write a children’s book, My Second Year of Kindergarten, which would help families talk with their child in a supportive way. Reading the draft of the book to my son helped him understand how positive the second year of kindergarten would be for him.

When my husband and I told our son at the end of his first year of kindergarten, he took the news well. However, the conversation did not end there. There were ups and downs. It was important for us to be mindful of the transitions my son’s peers were making going into first grade. Making sure our son was supported during those times, and not made to feel uncomfortable, was a priority.

Other difficult moments included explaining to parents when my son wasn’t on the class list for first grade, going to the kindergarten orientation for the second time, and attending the kindergarten musical again. However, even with all these mildly awkward moments, it was one of the best decisions we ever made for our son.

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This second year of kindergarten gave him the opportunity for a fresh start. He could make new friends, master concepts he had been exposed to last year, and gain confidence.

Writing my book was therapeutic and empowering for my husband and me, and it was a helpful tool for my son. It also provided a way to show people that parents need to be proud and confident as we give our children whatever they need to succeed, academically and socially. Repeating kindergarten taught me a lot about not fearing a sensitive issue, and communicating loud and clear with no regrets!

[Self-Test: Could Your Child Have an Executive Function Deficit?]

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  1. My son has AdD and Selective Mutism (a severe Social Anxiety – he didn’t speak at all outside our family home until age 7). His principal and 2nd grade teacher suggested he repeat 2nd grade. We were devastated. He was bright and could read perfectly at home but at school the teachers didn’t see any progress. The school agreed that I could take videos of him doing homework and reading at home. That helped a lot but it wasn’t enough. He was still behind socially. He only whispered to one friend (a neighbor he’d none since they were babies). He was born the end of September and in our city the Kindergarten start cut off date is December 31st (birthday) but all of the surrounding towns the cut off birthday is August 31st. I told my husband that if we lived in ANY other town our son would have started school a year later. So we talked about it more and decided the teachers know best. We would do our son a disservice if we pushed him ahead…later he’d be more behind. The principal explained to our son that he did such a good job that she needed him to help her with the kids coming into 2nd grade. It was a nice idea but he didn’t fall for it. He’s a smart little guy. The great news is that his very best friend for 3 years was also staying back! We were thrilled! Then both boys found out that their other buddy who stayed back in 1st grade would be in their class. The 3 were back together. Bottom line: Friends or Not…Keep your child back if you and the teachers agree. He/She will adjust quickly when they are little and you will not regret your decision. My son is now in 7th grade, 13 years old. He is still best buddies with the boy who stayed back with him and he is still friends with the girl/neighbor who moved ahead whom he felt comfortable enough to whisper to. Is he a perfect student? Nope! But he’s a happy, well adjusted kid and that is all that matters to me and his dad. He and I and his older brother all have AdD but we talk about it with each other and our doctors and teachers/friends. And we are okay.

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