View Full Version : retaining in kindergarten

06-02-13, 02:11 PM
Hi everyone,

I am new to this forum and I am looking for some advice on retention. I have a 6-year-old son (turned six this April) with recently diagnosed ADD/ADHD in December. He is on 10 mg of Focalin and doing fairly well with it. I was hesitant to start him in Kindergarten because of some developmental delays (he seems to be approximately 6 months behind in meeting all major milestones). He was slightly premature and had low birth weight.

He began Kindergarten and had an older teacher that was obviously just awaiting retirement. She was not very patient with him and he did poorly both behaviorally and academically in the beginning. He hated going to school and really didn't make any friends. I expressed concerns early on and his teachers stated that they were also "very concerned" about him. The school stated that they didn't really start doing any formal testing or making accommodations until first grade. I expressed that was no longer making progress with his speech and they said they wanted to "give him some time" and that maybe he just needed an "adjustment period". Lots of emails to the teacher for advice and feedback went unanswered and the principle also stated that I should just "wait it out".

I decided to have him tested for ADD/ADHD in December, halfway through the school year, and he was diagnosed and placed on Adderall. (Later changed to Focalin due to some side effects). He has made slow and steady improvements since then. He shows more interest in school and is slowly beginning to catch up. He is, however, still behind the rest of the students in his class. He does not work independently and shows little confidence in learning. He is also more immature and shows no interest in sports, group activities, etc. He relates more to adults than children his own age and says that he doesn't have any friends. I am just as worried about his social development as I am his academic development.

His teacher retired in February and his new teacher is very young and this is her first teaching job. She lacks experience and patience as well but shows concern for him. After finally getting the ball rolling on speech therapy in December, he was evaluated and approved to receive speech therapy services but no more than that because he is not in first grade. I was not shocked when the subject of repeating kindergarten came up. His teacher and the counselors at the school seem to be pushing it very hard. His doctor seems somewhat indifferent about it but said "it might be a good idea." I have read so much conflicting information about it. I have read all of the current studies and research and the opinions of many of the leading ADD/ADHD doctors. On the contrary, I have read many posts by parents that said "retention was the best thing I ever did, etc. My child is now excelling, etc." Since many ADD/ADHD children seem to relate to younger children due to immaturity, I thought it might help him to repeat for that reason.

I am so stressed and upset about making this huge decision. My son does not have an extreme case of ADD/ADHD but suffers from it enough to cause problems. We also has three other 6-year-old kindergartens in our family that we see often who will be advancing to first grade (one with worse developmental delays than my son's but the school is against retention). I don't see this being positive for his self-esteem- but I also don't see him being labeled as dumb in first grade as a positive thing either. Please, please take some time to give me any advice you may have. This is weighing so heavily on my heart.

Thank you,
Worried Mom

Ms. Mango
06-02-13, 05:26 PM
I've seen a few articles about retaining early, in K or 1st grade, being beneficial. Every situation and child is different, though.

In your case, my concern is that the school would be holding him back without offering anything to help him in areas where he's struggling because they don't offer services to kids who aren't in first grade.

That seems to be a Catch-22--can't get services as a Kindergartner, can't progress to 1st because the school wouldn't provide beneficial services that might have allowed him to catch up.

You have a tough decision to make. Will the school bend its rule about offering services to your DS if he stays in Kindy? How about having him go to first with an IEP that gives him the services he needs? Do you think he'd would make similar progress that way?

Sites like Wrightslaw (website for special education information) are very against retention. Retention alone doesn't work for most kids with special needs. Sure, some kids just need another year to mature, but often special needs students need more or they just end up another year behind. They need services to allow them to successfully move on--services that your school doesn't want to provide.

06-02-13, 07:32 PM
Better now than in grade 5.

06-02-13, 10:51 PM
I actually did a presentation on this subject to a set of teachers.

Research does not support retention as a useful policy. In fact, research demonstrates that, in comparing two children of equal ability, the one that is retained will typically preform worse than the one that was not retained on outcomes tests within five years (comparing end of grade testing when they have both completed the same grade, meaning that the retained student has had an additional year of study). A retained student will show an initial improvement (when the student is repeating material) that will dissipate when they continue into the higher grades. Furthermore, retained students typically demonstrate a higher level of school drop out, and lower ratings of school satisfaction.

However, this doesn't explain what does work. Research demonstrates that the best way to increase a student's abilities is targeted tutoring specifically in the areas of deficit. This means they need to know the area(s) of deficit, and they need to dedicate extra out-of-school (or resource time) time on those areas rather than general knowledge. This is why retention is not a useful policy. It will spend a significant portion reteaching a student skills that they have already mastered (leading to greater dissatisfaction) while only dedicating the same amount of time to the actual areas of deficit.

However! Research also demonstrates that when retention is chosen, the youngest grades are the most profitable. For students who are very socially immature there can be greater outcomes. But, again, targeted social interventions are much more profitably than putting the child with a younger peer group. Especially when you consider that you are forcing a child with social deficits to begin with an entire new group of peers.

That being said. As a teacher I have retained a student a few years ago. He was born in late December and had been steadily behind in his motor skills (printing skills that seems to pick up very quickly halfway through the year and I imagined with another year would be at grade level allowing him to complete assigned work) & socioemotional skills since he started in Kindergarten. He was also significantly smaller than his peers. These are all things to consider. Will he fit in with his new peer group or will it look like he is a year older?

Does the school have a plan in place to help support your son if he is retained? What additional services will he be receiving? If it's retention in place of giving individual services then I would say no. If it's retention with individualized services in the areas of deficiency then that may be a good option.

All in all though I think a mother's intuition is best. You know what's the best thing for your child. While research may indicate one thing, a significant minority of children do better after retention (and the outcomes are better in K-2). It's truly a situation where a mother's instincts are helpful.

06-03-13, 05:13 AM
Itīs a hard decision, but I teach children of this age and many kids donīt do great in this grade either because of ADHD but quite often because of lack of maturity. In many cases holding them back doesnīt help as when kids are "ready" to learn they can catch up very easily.

If the school can identify which areas he is weak in, then it is possible, with one to one tuition, for him to catch up during the summer break.

What is he like in a mixed play setting, i.e if he has a choice of kids aged 5, 6 or 7, which age group does he prefer?

Developing social skills is as important to a childīs happiness as keeping up in the classroom.

Both my kids started treatment for adhd at aged 13 and 17 (very late). Both have repeated school years, to no avail. I can honestly say it didnīt help them one bit (although for some kids it does help).

What helps my kids most is correct medication with one to one tuition. Itīs not the quantity of hours studying is the quality of teaching. A 40 minute or even half hour session with a good teacher, one to one is worth more than 5 hours in a classroom.

06-30-13, 03:13 PM
I know of a boy who was retained in kindergarten and blossomed as a result -- but his K teacher was excellent. I would hesitate to repeat with a teacher you don't have confidence in. Do they have another K class that you could request he switch to? Would you be able/willing to pay for a year of private school and try kindergarten in a different setting?

It sounds like he will get more help from the IEP team and likely a more experienced teacher by moving on to first grade. Also, if his issues are such that the local school isn't able to give the accommodations and extra help he needs, you'll find out sooner by having him start first grade now. There's always the option of repeating 1st grade next year.

He relates more to adults than children his own age and says that he doesn't have any friends. I am just as worried about his social development as I am his academic development.

This concerns me -- have you read up on Aspergers?

MADD As A Hatte
11-18-13, 03:21 AM
I don't see this being positive for his self-esteem- but I also don't see him being labeled as dumb in first grade as a positive thing either.
Thank you,
Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mum

Welcome! I have stood in your shoes, and I remember how difficult this decision was. I repeated my daughter in Kindy, for a number of the same reasons as you've stated. Looking back, it was the best thing I could possibly have done as the primary advocate for my daughter's lifelong wellbeing.

Popsy went from being behind in many areas (in Kindy 1st time), to fitting in perfectly normally with her peers (in Kindy 2nd time).

After the decision was finally made. and she got over her little upset, she started in Kindy again, made friends, loved doing it all over again, happy days! The repeating was never mentioned again, and except for reading your post, ten years later I'd forgotten all about this.

Her self esteem was only affected positively. If I had NOT repeated her, she would have had to repeat in a later year. Can you imagine the loss of face for a teenager having to repeat? Much better to hold the child back a year when they are very young.

She was assessed for ADD a few years later. If I had known at the time of repeating Kindy that she had ADD, I wouldn't have spent a single minute wondering about what to do. Repeat - YES!!

Without minimizing the angst you are feeling, could I say that truly, in the bigger picture, in the long term, this decision is incidental. I blew it out of all proportion (being the ADD mother that I am!) and honestly, I was hugely relieved once I just made the decision, advised the school, told my child and our friends, and moved on to more significant issues!

All the best

11-18-13, 10:01 AM
Research does not support retention as a useful policy.

I have heard the same thing; in general, it doesn't help the child academically.

But as others have said, it depends on different factors (ex: you know your child, what is your intuition? What are the Kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers like? Can he receive services in Grade 1 that he can't receive if he repeats Kindergarten?)

Also, how old is your son compared to others in his class? Maybe this can help your decision (ex: if your child is one of the older ones and is held back, he will be almost 2 years older than some other children but if he is now one of the youngest, there won't be that much difference in age.