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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.

[Self-Test: Could Your Child Have ADHD?]

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 (#CommissionsEarned), 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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