Perhaps my expectations of the behavior of a 3-year old child are a bit too low. In fact, perhaps my expectations of a 4-year old child are too low. My struggles with the local school system in regards to my older braniac have been well documented, so I won’t regurgitate that for the sake of expedience. But now I’m having issues with our local school system relating to the younger brainiac.
For those of you confused why I have my 3-year old enrolled in school already, I should give you a brief background. My son doesn’t talk. Ever. I realize some of you are scratching your heads and wondering what the problem with that is. I have no doubt most of you feel like that would be heavenly if your toddler didn’t speak. But for me, it’s a matter of concern. It causes a great deal of frustration because the boy knows what he wants but lacks the ability, or desire, to communicate his needs. Many well-intentioned people gave us lots of advice when he was a little younger. “Don’t worry, he’ll talk when he’s ready”. “Einstein didn’t talk until he was 5”. “He doesn’t need to say anything, because his brother always answers for him”.
I didn’t want him to start life at a disadvantage of lagging behind in his language skills, so we decided to have him evaluated. We were told that he was significantly delayed in various areas of speech and that he was eligible for speech therapy through Central Texas Easter Seals. One of the benefit of being a foster/adoptive parent is that these services are free for him, so we saw no reason not to enroll him in the program. Admittedly, we’ve had a varying degree of success with the program. On his third birthday his Easter Seals benefits expired and he was elevated up the ladder to our local school system’s “Early Childhood Intervention” program. He went from having speech therapy twice a month to being enrolled in a local school program for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week.
His speech has gotten, relatively, MUCH better over the last 4 months. In fact, on the way to Galveston last week, I heard him counting softly to himself all the way up to fifteen. Last night, at dinner, he was dancing around, acting like a buffoon, when I noticed he was singing along to the musak that was playing over the loud speaker…to a song I had never heard before, much less play for him. I’ve always thought that when the boy DID start talking it would be in complete sentences, and for this I’m thrilled.
So what’s the problem you ask? As with the older braniac, I’ve gotten some disturbing communication from the school system regarding the behavior of my child. I’ve always been a huge advocate of the public school system. I think, hands down, public schools are a better environment for children than private or home-schooling environments. You can disagree with me on that all you want, in fact, I would appreciate you challenging me on that. I feel like private schools teach towards a specific agenda. In other words, send your child to a parochial school, and they’re going to learn the churches agenda. And while, admittedly, not intimately familiar with the home-schooling environment, I understand that there’s a certain level of interaction with other children, but for the most part it’s a limited engagement with a very small group of children. I feel like the public school system throws a child into a greater mix of diverse student populations that are invaluable to a child’s learning experience. Not to mention that whole exposure to childhood illnesses thing!
All that said, I’m beginning to think there’s some inherent problems to the public school system. As I mentioned at the very start of this, either I’m disillusioned and my expectations of my child are way too low, or THEIR expectations of children are way too high.
Last week I got a phone call from one of the younger braniac’s teachers. She was calling to tell me they were having “behavioral” issues with him and that it had been going on for a while. I found it odd that they had been having behavioral issues “for a while” and asked why I hadn’t been notified earlier. I was told they were trying to work the issues out themselves, but it had reached a point where they felt they needed some parental intervention or assistance. She went through the laundry list of “behavioral problems” they were having with my child. It took all I had to keep from laughing out loud on the telephone. To reiterate their point, yesterday he came home with a note from his teachers and three triplicate forms of “incidents” that I had to sign and date.
”We have seen increasingly aggressive behaviors while at school. I would like to
have his behavior evaluated by our mental health division here to see if they
can help us find solutions that may help calm his aggression…”
What? HE’S THREE. HE’S NON-VERBAL. What is a “mental health professional” going to be able to get out of him? I CAN’T GET HIM TO TELL ME WHETHER HE WANTS JUICE OR MILK!
Curious to see what his aggressive behaviors were, I checked on the incident reports they sent:
• Oppositional or defiant behavior: Has to be told a limit more than twice. Running in the classroom. Running away.
• Aggressive Behavior: Kicking. Throwing objects. Hitting. Biting.
• Inappropriate use of classroom and playground equipment: Climbing on furniture.
Again, I would like to say, HE’S THREE! Have these people never met a 3-year old before? The ONLY thing on the list that concerned me was the biting, as we had crossed that bridge YEARS ago. He hasn’t bitten anyone, that I know of, since way before his 2nd birthday. This leads me to believe that if he’s biting now, it’s a learned behavior from his new environment.
A group learning environment is nothing new to my son. He’s been in daycare since he was 6-weeks old. I feel like what the school administrators fail to recognize with their Pre-K and even Pre-Pre-K is that the children aren’t familiar with all the new rules of the school when they first arrive. THIS is a learned behavior. Of course my 3-year old runs around a classroom, that’s what he’s been doing at his daycare ever since he learned to walk! Of course my child needs limits told more than twice. HE’S THREE! Of course my child is kicking, throwing, and hitting, and climbing on furniture, HE’S THREE.
Please. Tell me, am I the one that has the problem? Am I disillusioned about how I expect a 3-year old to act? If so, please give me some suggestions at how to address these behavior issues.