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International Adoption Info

Newsletter #147 for Internationally Adopting Parents
May 14, 2011
PAL Center Inc.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

Children with FASD in Schools


 

Initial screening
of your internationally adopted child
in the Spanish Language
is now available both at
the Phoenix &
New York
BGCenter offices!

 


 

New Online Class
from B. Gindis Ph.D.

Cumulative Cognitive Deficit
in Internationally Adopted Children
Coming Soon


Dr. Gindis
returns to the BGCenter
New York office on
May 19, 2011

Internet Digest

This family did it 12 times!

MailOnline News
Meet the Hams: Two Arizona gay men who have adopted TWELVE children

No nonsense way to familiarize with new culture

ParentDish by PBSParents.org
Helping Adopted Children Find Their Identities

You can win the battle for Special Ed services for your child!

News-Bulletine.com
State cites Los Lunas Schools over special ed denial

You receive this newsletter
as a former client or correspondent
of the Center for Cognitive-Developmental
Assessment & Remediation,
or a former student
of the BGCenter Online School,
or a user of the International Adoption Articles Directory.

Copyright@2006-2011

 

Latest Articles
from the

International Adoption Articles Directory
New Articles

To Promote or Not to Promote?

    The school year is close to completion, and the question of their child's academic progress and promotion to the next level is on the minds of many internationally adopting parents: former orphanage residents are often immature and struggle at school, their language may still be in development and emotional turmoil is not rear. How to determine what would be a better solution long term: allow some time for the child's natural maturation while staying in the same grade or go for the next level and higher academic achievement? The answer is: "It depends." Below Dr. Gindis discusses the issue with a parent, giving a clear direction on how to approach a rational and well based decision.

    Parent: We are an American family living in Thailand. Our son is now 7 years old. We adopted him at 6. He has a severe articulation disorder. Most of his utterances are 1-2 word phrases and he is quite unintelligible unless he's communicating in a high-context situation. As he is also HIV+, he's spent much of his life fighting for his health, including chronic ear infections which have left him with a mild hearing loss, and affected his speech development. He has been attending half-day kindergarten. He is quickly acquiring English vocabulary, we're hearing more 3 word phrases, and he gets speech/language therapy 3 hours/week. He is highly motivated to learn when with peers and actively pursues social interactions as well. I speak mainly English with him, using Thai when it's a low-context situation and I need him to understand. The other members of the family speak mainly Thai with him. We're in a unique situation as we are living in the country of our child's birth and using his native language for business/community events, but function mostly in English at school/home/socially.

    We are now drawing to the end of the school year and there is disagreement among the educational team whether or not to send our son to 1st grade. Arguments for sending him on to 1st grade include:

    1. He would have a full day of immersion in English rather than half day of kindergarten.
    2. He has bonded with his classmates and they are very encouraging and accepting of him.
    3. He would have a teacher who is experienced in teaching children in a bilingual setting in Thailand, including children from orphanages, is fluent in Thai, and is an adoptive parent of an HIV positive orphan herself, and is very skilled in promoting a calm, structured classroom environment.
    4. He seems to be acquiring vocabulary quickly and speaking more 3 word utterances; he can identify color names, shapes, numbers 1-20, upper and lower case alphabet letters, and I am beginning to teach him reading using Lindamood-Bell's Seeing Stars (of course his articulation challenges make this a bigger hoop to jump through expressively); he can, however, produce all the sounds in English except "g" but needs to imitate a model in order to do it.
    5. He is just beginning to get more calm and settled in our family and at school and I'm concerned that holding him back would be a setback; I'd rather let him continue on with familiar peers and if he needs to repeat 1st grade do it then; in my uninformed opinion I'd choose to foster the emotional/social well-being and get that more stable rather than focusing only on academic issues which it seems most of the team members are doing.
    6. I would be present in the classroom to provide support to my son so teacher wouldn't be overly taxed by his needs.
    7. His current kindergarten teacher feels he is bright and has all the tools to continue developing with appropriate supports (SLP, ESL, me as classroom support and additional reading instruction at home); she is a parent of 2 older IA children herself and has a degree in special Ed, so I feel she knows what she's talking about.

    Arguments to retain my son in kindergarten:

    1. Reduced academic stress.
    2. My boy would be more on par developmentally/academically with classmates.
    3. He would demand too much individual attention from 1st grade teacher and detract from the overall classroom environment.

    Obviously there is a lot more to this picture, but I would appreciate any feedback you might be able to offer based on my admittedly biased information.

    Dr. Gindis: Your situation is really unique and my recommendations should be applied in general terms and on one condition that the school we are talking about is a "typical" American school. Before I present my arguments, I have to say that readiness for the age-appropriate preschool experiences in post-institutionalized children is a complex issue rooted in five intertwined but still distinct areas of child's development:

    1. Cognitive ability - the ability to learn specific skills and information.
    2. Language mastery - a tool of reasoning, a means of literacy, and a medium for academic learning and social interaction.
    3. Pre-academic preparedness - specific academic skills and knowledge.
    4. Social skills - the ability to function socially in school as an institution and to participate in joint/shared activities with others.
    5. Quality of a scaffold - the merits of the educational environment, quality of instructors and support from parents available to the child.

    These five dimensions of school readiness do not always develop in harmony: a child may be ready cognitively or language-wise but may be immature socially, or vice versa. A clear understanding of which competencies relate to specific learning objectives is the foundation of an appropriate academic placement decision. Please consider your son's readiness form these prospective, given each factor a rank from 1 (minimal), to 2 (moderate), to 3 (maximum).

    Making this kind of decision, please rank your priorities in parenting this child. Include into your list of priorities such notions as "emotional stability", "attachment", "quality of family life". Remember that frustration related to the school performance will negatively affect attachment, child's self-perception, emotional stability, and it will bring tension into your family life.

    You, the mother, and your IEP team at school do have different perspectives, different priorities, and different goals for you son. My firm professional opinion is that your perspective, namely "emotional well-being and social adeptness" is the most important and is your major priority, while academic achievement is the distant second. Emotional health is the key to parenting adopted child: consider all your school-related decisions from this point of view.

    Fourth, when parents are making decision of repeating kindergarten or entering the first grade, they often lose the right reference point, which is readiness for the 2nd (second) grade. Let me explain. Second grade is the most important grade in our educational system. It is the only grade, when teachers concentrate on reading skills, working diligently on decoding, fluency, and comprehension. Although many children from middle class families may enter 2nd grade with functional reading skills, still this grade is crucial in consolidating their mastery of reading as the major tool for learning. There is even a saying: "Children enter second grade to learn to read and leave it reading to learn." So ask yourself, what can be done to prepare your son to the second grade experience? Will repeating K help him to be ready for the second grade? Will repeating the 1st grade help him to benefit from the 2nd?

    Retaining in the grade is a very strong "medicine" with a number of "side-effects". Use it with caution and only when it is absolutely necessary (as any medication).

    After saying all this, I give you my arguments for promotions:

    1. Repeating kindergarten makes sense only from the point of view of social/emotional maturity and language fluency for ELL students (more time of exposure to the English language is available). There is not much of academic work done at K level, and repeating it usually does not result in gains cognitively and academically. I do not think that your son's language issues could be helped much by just repeating the same program - his language skills need remediation, not just repeating the same instructional program. You cannot hold over a child many times, so it is better to save this opportunity for the first grade in order to prepare him for the 2nd. Based on what you have written, promotion to the 1st grade will be more beneficial for your son's social/emotional well-being than his retention. I think this is the key argument.

    3. My other very important argument will be the quality of the scaffold available for your son. Based on what you have described, this is an outstanding support system, both in school and at home, that has a tremendous potential in itself in educating a child. Real education takes place in what is called by Lev Vygotsky "zone of proximal development" (ZPD). You can learn more about his theory on our website; I wrote a number of articles and book chapters on his theory applied to special education, see http://www.bgcenter.com/vygotskyPublication.htm

    ZPD implies a learning level that is above the student's independent work capability, but accessible to the student with the scaffold of educational system, teachers first of all. If the scaffold in the first grade will be on the level you have described, you can promote your son with a significant degree of confidence.

    I vote for your son's promotion to the 1st grade. Please apply my arguments according to the specificity of your situation, keeping in mind that it's just a general discussion on the topic and I can't see the child in question.

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