Monday, April 11, 2011

Retain, Sh*t, or Go Blind

Thanks to everyone for wishing me well for the IEP meeting.  It went well.  The big discussion was around Audrey's fall placement, and if she would stay where she is or move on.  Now we have some classroom visits to schedule, and then we will regroup for another meeting and come to a decision.

One of the options is to do full-inclusion with an aid, and this is where I'm insistent that the inclusion be in a 1st grade rather than a 2nd grade classroom.  This is also where the previously discussed anal bladder PMS retention comes into play.

In doing my research, I've found that the classic arguments against "holding back" are that it leads to...

Increased drop-out rates
Do I really have to worry about this now?  Are kids even allowed to drop out of 2nd grade?

Increased rates of dangerous behaviors such as drinking, drug-use, crime, and teenage pregnancy.
Well, it's clearly been a long time since I've been in 2nd grade.  Again, I'm hoping that this is more applicable to children or teens that are held back during middle or high school years.  

Lower self esteem, as the student feels as if they are mentally inferior.  Also may make them the subject of ridicule and bullying by other students.

She's gonna need that extra year to
formulate some better comebacks.
I can't even joke about this one.  You could substitute "autism" itself for "retention" as a potential reason behind these negative outcomes.  Would "holding back" on top of having special needs further exacerbate the situation?  If we are talking more about holding out rather than holding back, e.g.: delaying the start of 1st grade rather than holding a child back later on in 3rd grade or beyond, couldn't you argue the opposite?  It could help their self-esteem if they felt more on par socially or maturity-wise.  Plus they'd have that extra year of size and bulk to fend off those bullies.

One final thing that caught my eye when reading studies about retention...

The possibility of grade retention has been shown to be a significant source of stress for students.  One study found that grade retention was the single greatest fear, higher than loss of a parent or going blind.
Going blind?  What the?  I'm really hoping the study gave the participants a list of potential tragedies to choose from...and that maybe the list hasn't been updated in a decade or five since the days when adults tried to make kids think that certain activities would make them go blind.

Seriously, there was no more anxiety-ridden, hypochondriacal kid on the face of the earth than me, and even I never worried about going blind.  That an archangel would swoop down upon me in the middle of the night and give me a "calling" that compelled me to become a nun - yes.  That I would go blind - no.  Kids today.  They can't even do neurotic right.

So now I'm off to formulate my argument in favor of retention for Audrey.  So far I've come up with the following:  *sobbing*  "But the kids are so bi-i-i-i-i-g.  I don't wa-a-a-a-a-a-na"  *sniff* *sob* *snot spew* *snort* *gnash* *wail*

I've got a few more weeks to refine my case.


  1. When I decided to hold Brian back last year for a second year of kindergarten I looked around and found those horrible statistics, but I also found statistics that showed how much better it was to be held back in younger grades than opposed to when they are older. Of course, after reading all of the crap I just laughed- because honestly none of it really related to brian or to autism. You go with your gut, us Mommys always know best ;)

  2. Do what you know is best for her, Lynn. Yeah, it would seem like the stats wouldn't apply as much to kids with autism.

    I held my son (not on the spectrum) back in first grade. He really needed it, and I was more worried about his self-esteem if I DIDN'T hold him back. I didn't want him going through school always feeling frustrated and behind. Luckily the school and I were on the same page. I did have to fight his father over it, though. It's been really good for him. He still isn't at the top of his class, but he's doing fine and he's where he should be.

    The going blind thing....funny! I can't say that's been much of a concern here, either.

  3. I've heard of those studies, as well. And, having taught, the kids who were held back in kdg/1st always adjusted well. The age difference is small, then, and new friends are made quickly, and 'time' is easily forgotten. And the going blind deal?? I laughed out loud -- what kind of question is that?

  4. A lot of people think I am solely opposed to inclusion. Truth is, im not. I had a much more detailed description of why but in typing this, the page did something and I lost it all. So now, you're going to get the shorter short short version lol
    Schools (and parents) get stuck on "if my kid stays with typical kids they'll learn how to "be normal". On one hand, i support that. But over the years, I've watches schools time and time again, due to Bush's "no child left behind" act, get pushed forward.. grade after grade, without meeting the requirements. My close friend, is guilty of that. Her focus was so set on having his BEHAVIORS be typical, that his education suffered. When she was having difficulties with his IEP and asked me to sit in on it, imagine my surprise when I sat next to this 17 yr old boy that still couldnt read. This isn't out of the ordinary. The numbers of kids like this are disgusting. I can't solely blame the schools. This is a mom that feels homework isnt her job. "school is for learning". "he has too much social things going on for me to sit here and teach him this stuff. Thats what TEACHERS are for" (did you vomit a little??)
    Inclusion can be that GREATEST tool.. if used correctly. If the child gets pulled back, it reflects poorly on the school. Consideration is not taken for weather or not its a special needs student. In NY, it was all about "the numbers".
    So if you feel your daughter needs to be held back, fight like hell for it. It's disgusting how many 16-22+yr olds aren't even at functional reading/functional math yet. I'm watching my friends son, now 19, still struggling with 1st grade reading. It's sad.

  5. Coming this summer, we do a big cross-country move to a duty station we WILL be at for hopefully ten years. 7 moves in 14 years has worn on me. However, this means that my Sherman-esque Scorched Earth Policy towards IEPS will not be effective at all. I am terrified. The idea of least intrusive (let's see if he fails before we do what you think he needs, Mom) pisses me off to no end. *sigh*

    So not looking forward to this.

  6. when i held my nt son back from 2nd to 1st...i also read all those studies and i firmly believe they ar all botched crap studies. it was the best thing for him and allowed him to be successful. if i listened to that crap he would be failing all his life and always feel lost or behind in the class. i have known other parents that hold back and their cases are identical to mine. holding back was the best thing for their child so i have no idea where they get this botched info. i really think its false.

    anyway...obviously audrey's case is a bit different. the aide will be a good thing. my asd son has a full time aide in 1st. the other kids don't really notice or care. but, i want his aide there through 2nd as well.

    don't stress. too much...:)

  7. When my son was little, a girl in our area was kidnapped. Several years later her mom was on Oprah, and was asked "How long do you plan to look for her?" The mom looked at Oprah and said "I'm her mother. If I don't look for her, who will?"

    That has basically become my mantra for parenting. I am his mother. If I don't fight for what is right for him, who will?

    Do what you believe is right for YOUR child.

    Fight hard, love hard, and good luck.

  8. The only question I would have would be whether or not Audrey will be bored academically in a first grade class. If you don't think she will be, or if that's the lesser of two evils, then go for it! I hope you see classes you like and the regroup IEP goes well!

  9. "I want Audrey to repeat 1st grade. If this is not something you can accommodate we will move on to mediation." There ya go. And hire an advocate if they are being bitches about it.

    AND DON’T GOOGLE for crying out loud. That never leads to anything good. ; )

  10. And I wouldn't worry about academics. First grade is still so varied with kids who can read the encyclopedia and multiply and kids still sounding out BOB books and counting to 100...they can be pretty flexible.

  11. I think the self-esteem issues regarding retention might be true if the retention occurs in the school the child is currently attending, as they watch their classmates move on.

    Since Audrey will be coming into a new setting, nobody else will know that she has been in 1st grade before...unless she blabs it.

    The Boy, champion blabber, never told the kids at his new school that he attended 3rd grade in a previous year. And since I was able to make him see that the reason for retention was to help HIM learn the stuff his old school didn't bother with, he didn't mind at all.

  12. I think you probably know how I feel from reading my blog. Especially if you have read my posts about IEP's and Due Process Hearings.

    Go with your gut Lynn. If you feel 1st grade is the right decision, stick with it.

  13. You know your kid. You know what she needs. You'll get it done. Good luck!!

  14. Weren't you afraid you would go blind upon meeting Big Daddy for the first time?

  15. Oh dear Lord, I'm loving the name of your post. But seriously, MOM knows best. And I've no doubt that you have her best interest at heart!!

  16. @Claire: Now that you bring it up, I am going to the ophthalmologist on Wednesday to be looked at for macular degeneration. Coincidence?

  17. If your "mom gut" is telling you to hold her back a year, then go with it. We know our kids best, and we are the ones that will see them through life, not the school administrators. They're temporary, and have different goals.

    Also, if the snot blowing and sobbing don't work, you might also try a bribe.

  18. You are the mother. You know what's best for your child. Period.

  19. Oh my word, when were those studies publised, like in 1942??? go with waht you think is best. You know Audrey better than anyone else and know what's best for her. Don't let them strong arm you into something you don't want to do. Hugs--L

  20. Wonder if you will come across that special teacher for whom you would be willing to hold Audrey back every year if possible. When we had to move out of one class into the Jr. High I wished I could have found any excuse to keep him where he was.
    Bullying isn't really an issue in our case since Dan isn't much of a target for bullies. No reaction, no fun for the bully. =/

    I imagine it might be very different for Audrey since she is more social but you have her best interest first and foremost in your heart unlike any other person in her life and that is the best motivator for advocacy. Your cause is Audrey! :)

  21. I agree with the others, do what you think is best for her. And let us know exactly which arguments you went with at the IEP meeting so we can just copy that and not have to do all this research ourselves over the next few years. :)

  22. Poorly drawn cartoons? Really? Et tu Lynn? Et tu?

    I think you know where I stand on retention. Whatever Mrs. BD told you, is exactly where I stand.

  23. Retention will not be a biggy in these years. Stop worry and you may be able to cancel that ophthalmologist appt!

  24. As a former special education teacher, they need to assess her performance socially, academically, and behaviorally instead of just placing her where her age would be when she is coming out of a non-graded class system. Just because she is the age of a second grader does not mean she has mastered the attention skills required to succeed in the classroom, or the social skills for situations like transitions and group activities, or the classroom skills normally learned in early grades but not a huge part of her previous class setting. Definitely keep the aide with her during her first year out in inclusion to give Audrey a "translator" in her new world. The best thing is that if you don't agree with an IEP you never have to sign it. you can go the mediation, you can get an advocate, just never sign an IEP you have any concerns with. You may also want to point out to the school district that Audrey is enttles to a free education until the age of 21 and so retention must occurr sometime.

  25. At least you are putting the time in as usual. I'm going to take a guess and say that the home school district administration has not done quite as much research on the pros/cons of retention for Audrey as you have. But maybe they will, which would be great! Because it will surely involve getting the valuable opinions of everyone on her current educational team.

  26. As encouragement that you are doing the right thing, I teach an autistic 15 year old 8th grader who made the honor roll in regular classes, attended a dance, and even slow danced with a girl. He was held back in first grade. Yeah, bustin' knowledge.

  27. Good luck with your battle. You're the mom, you make the rules...

  28. I say the anxiety is caused from what they hear. It could be a source of bullying but I think that would be more common around boys but I could be mistaken as girls can be really mean too. I say do what you know works for your daughter and be open and honest about it with her. If you lie or sugar coat it... the truth later could hurt her more.

  29. Gee, I was held back in kindergarten and I missed the memo that said I was supposed to drop out and do drugs - Oops! (I use it for bonding with my High School Earth Science students)

  30. Is the school really resisting the retention idea, or do they at least seem to be kinda, sorta thinking about it? If they are resisting, what kind of arguments are they making? I presume they are not making the same arguments you found in your research.

    I find it interesting that so many readers say that as the parent, you know what is best for your child. In my case, I often wish I knew what was best. But then, I'm a dad and not a mom, so what do I know?

  31. Glad the IEP meeting went well! We're really lucky our son has an Oct birthday...if he didn't, we would've definitely held him back without question.

    My hubby talks about this kind of thing with folks at his school frequently (he's a school psychologist) and there is generally always a positive result when retaining kids when appropriate (even though parents are concerned at the outset.) Sounds like you're doing the right thing!

  32. I'm with Claudia and Lizbeth - first, these studies are ludicrous - drugs and dropping out - that's just insanity with you as Audrey's mom! It will not happen. Second, you must be completely honest with Audrey about what is happening. Even if she cannot express her feelings fully to you, she knows every single bit of what is going on. Have you asked her what she wants? Don't hide it from her. Share it and help her understand what you are trying to do. Even if you don't think it is possible - she will understand. She's extremely smart. By telling her, you will avoid the self-esteem issues because you can, but you really must talk to her about it to avoid them. Ok - yeah - I know I'm repeating myself.

    We're older mamas Lynn and that makes us smarter but we are not going blind - that leaves retention or sh**ing. If those are my choices I'm going with retention. (Schools are cheap - they don't want retention - generally- so you may have to fight. Just walk in extra confident - fake it if you have to!)

  33. Welcome to the wonderful world of the IEP process. Do whatever you think she needs. You know her; they don't.

    How 'bout those cartoons. Jealous Big Daddy, are ya jealous???

  34. All the kids I retained in Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd got pregnant that next year AND started smoking. The stats are dead on.

    Seriously though, this is a big deal. I really only retained kids who absolutely needed to be retained. I usually had 1 or 2 a year. And those were kids who were young, missed every other day of school, or just didn't get anything that year. However, all the above comments are right that it is better to do it now.

    One thought though, if you try 2nd grade and it proves to be too hard, you can always pull her back. And from what I know about Audrey, that won't bruise her too much, or will it? I did that with only a few kids over the years, pushed them on on a trial basis and then reevaluated after the first few months. In all of those cases, the kids stayed in the upper grade. One time, the student repeated that next grade. And he was fine.

    Bottom line, I'd hold her back only if you really, really feel she should be held back. I wish I lived closer so I could do an eval and give you my thoughts. I do those all the time and charge big bucks for it! But for you, I'd do it for free!

  35. this is the best cartoon ever. Ever.

    Round two of kindergarten starts in August for the bird. After that... who the fuck knows?

  36. I agree with everyone else, you probably are better equipped to know how to do what's best for her than anyone.

    That said, I think there could perhaps be a misunderstanding about the studies. I imagine being held back in earlier grades leads to higher drop out rates, etc, not because of things that happen now, but later on... e.g. conversations in middle school: "dang, you're tall, how old are you again? - uhm, 13 - 13?! I'm only 12, you got HELD BACK!?!? - uhm, yeah, so what? - AHAHAHA MARY GOT HELD BACK!!!" Or the child turning 18 during his Jr year of high school and deciding he's an adult and doesn't need school anymore.

    Kids are cruel, and even if they don't notice or care in these lower grades, it may be an issue in the future. That doesn't mean it should never be done, of course, just another thing to consider.

  37. Hi! I'm visiting from SITS. I'll try (try being the key word) to keep my comments to a minimum. First of all, great blog. I would dare say that you are making a lot of worried mommas out there feel like they are not alone while you give them the information and confidence they might need with their own children.

    This particular post struck me. I taught second grade for four years, so though I have a little experience, I am, by no means, an expert (just like to get up on my soapbox every now and again). Everyone always mentions the studies of the negative effects retention has on a child's self-esteem. I would like to see more studies on what NOT retaining a child (who needs it) might to do a child's self-esteem. Some children, regardless of the situation, are just not ready to move on, period. My fear is that if a child is not ready to move on for social, mental, or emotional issues, they might just get lost in the shuffle. They may miss out on the self-esteem that exists when one succeeds, or when one feels included and accepted.

    At the end of the day, you know her better than any other teacher, administrator, or study. You're her mamma, and you know what's best for her.

  38. I am a middle school special education teacher - intervention specialist...whatever the state goofs have changed my title too! It isn't about the "grade level" in my opinion! It is about where Audrey will show the most progress to get her to the next level! Traditional "rules" don't apply - if they did she wouldn't have an IEP!!! Flexibility will always be the key with her education!
    I am glad I found your blog...I long to know the parents true feelings! I have children of my own - but none have special needs.
    Thanks for being open and honest!

  39. i held my oldest (now a dx'd aspie) back in kindy...he's not blind or pregnant. he hasn't dropped out of high school. i think we're ok.

    you go with your instincts. if your little one honestly isn't ready, then promotion will be a hindrance to success. appropriate placement is one of the most important steps in facilitating true access to the general curriculum.

    retain w/ a child specific aid. we've got your back.

  40. We held our son back twice (K and 1st), and the fact that he's got a really late birthday did help increase acceptance. We had objective facts all lined up, showing that he was nowhere near grade-level, and his language processing ability is currently nowhere near what's needed to handle 2nd grade inclusion. So far, it's been exactly the right call.

  41. This was SO SO Helpful! I am in the same exact spot and almost changed my mind based on GOOGLE results. This seems to be from long ago - looking back would you do it again?

    1. Ha....glad this post was a help even though it's almost 4 years old! Not sure if your child is special needs or typical...anyway, I don't regret my decision. We did hold her back at the point that this post was written and now she's in 4th grade (age-wise would be in 5th). Especially this year since she's been struggling academically in 4th grade...I can't imagine her being in 5th and what that would be like. I really think the Google results mentioned in the post more applied to older kids who were held back in mid-elementary school, which obviously could be a bit humiliating for them. Good luck with your decision!

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