Reply To: Has anyone held their child back a grade

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We held our daughter back after she completed Year 5. She has ADD (inattentive type) and also has a dyslexic profile. At her original private school (we are in Australia) they declined our request to allow her to repeat, and after reading as much research & literature as I could about the pros and cons of repeating a grade I approached a smaller school where I requested for her to repeat Year 5. They (a little reluctantly) allowed us to do this. One of the main reasons schools don’t like kids to repeat is the possibility of that child being teased by his peers and the associated reduction in confidence of the child. However, by changing schools and keeping the reason for the change strictly confidential, we avoided the problem of teasing or bullying for that reason.

Research suggests children with ADD/ ADHD are behind in some areas of brain development by up to 3 years. Executive functioning and maturity are probably the slowest to develop. These skills are necessary to understand and complete schoolwork! This is why we felt our daughter would benefit from repeating a grade and being with a 1 year younger cohort of children for the remainder of her time in both primary school (elementary) and going on to high school.

In addition, her reading ability improves greatly with each year, although she remains a little behind the class standard. Grade 4/5 is when the focus in school changes from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”. Our daughter was still in the learning to read stage. Teachers will say “the dyslexia doesn’t go away therefore you should not hold the child back”. But my view is the child is learning and improving each year at their own pace. Kids with ADD seem to require much more time and much more training to achieve the same goals, both academically and in other areas. A time of consolidation can be a very good thing! And I have 4 children, 3 neurotypical and one with ADD. The ADD kids will achieve the same goals, but maybe not in the same time frame as most kids – and they shouldn’t be forced to! Schools still seem to create a lockstep learning environment and ADD kids need a more individual path.

Now my daughter is in Year 8 and I believe the decision to repeat was a sound one. It was better to allow her to consolidate for a year, keep the focus on learning to read, increase her skills and confidence and save a lot of stress. She is still not great at completing all her homework, (some gets done.some I get calls and emails from teachers about) and tests vary from excellent to not attempting them at all. That is mostly the nature of her ADD and no one thing will solve all the issues. But I’m glad she is not in Year 9 where the workload is greater still and she would be struggling all the more. She is quite intelligent but her work ethic is not what it needs to be to succeed at school so she has a tutor for maths. I am also going to hire a university student to come to our house for an hour and a half per week to help her complete homework for her other 7 school subjects. A friend of mine does this with her Year 8 daughter (not ADD, but not motivated) with great success.

I believe if you research the reasons why staff at your child’s school do not want your child to repeat a grade, and then give them well researched counter arguments they will be more ready to see your point of view. Apparently in some European countries it is more common for students to repeat a grade and there is less social stigma around it. I think this would lead to better long term outcomes for the child than forcing every child to go up a year whether they are ready or not. A good mantra for bringing up ADD kids is “More time, more training”. Good luck!