Should My Child Repeat a Grade in School?

With it being “IEP season,” a great question comes to mind: should my child repeat a grade in school? There are many schools of thought about this subject matter. I will share a variety of reasons an IEP committee, which includes the parents, may decide that it is a good idea to repeat a child in a grade in school. I will also share a variety of reasons an IEP committee may decide it is not in the child’s best interest to repeat a grade. This decision is considered an IEP committee decision and parents have equal rights to share their feelings and thoughts regarding this matter. No one knows the child as well as mom and dad.
Sometimes, a child may repeat a grade because he/she is socially immature and needs extra time to mature. This is a common practice in younger grades for typical children as well as children with disabilities. By giving a child an extra year, more practice, and younger peers, the results may work really well for the child. No teacher or principal can ever know 100%, but they try to make their best judgement based on experience and knowledge of the child.
Another reason a child with a disability may repeat a grade is to gain essential academic skills that he/she may have missed for whatever reason during the academic school year. Although children can not stay in each grade two years, there may be some years that they need more time to gain the foundational skills they need to continue to progress alongside their peers. Kids with disabilities may not always be able to gain as many skills as typical children throughout the school year, but it is important that they gain the foundational skills that will be built on year after year.
Sometimes, a child whose disability impacts them moderately may benefit from repeating a grade in order to be included in general education activities more than they would be if they moved to the next grade level. Inclusion in the general class is important for building social skills, relationships, increasing academic opportunities, being a part of a group, and many, many more reasons. For this reason, it may be decided that a child repeat a grade merely to be able to be appropriately included in general education more. As children progress to higher elementary grades, children with disabilities tend to spend less time in general education because the materials become increasingly difficult.
The above are a few reasons why a child may be held back from moving forward. So what are some reasons that a child may move forward and not repeat a grade?
One reason to decide not to repeat is merely to keep a child with their peers. It is difficult sometimes for kids with disabilities to form friendships and when a child repeats a grade, they start all over with building relationships. As we know with kids who have autism, they already have a difficult time building these relationships and if we hold them back, they end up having to start over the next school year. This can be detrimental for some students. Kids not only have built friendships in their current grade, but they have also more than likely built support systems. Support systems are typical kids who assist them in a variety of ways, such as with following directions or advocate for them when they need a break or are having trouble communicating. Support systems are not built overnight and once they are in place can be helpful to a child with a disability.
Another reason to progress a child depends on the child’s attributes. Is he/she already a foot taller than everyone and bigger? By holding him/her back, does he/she stand out in the crowd? If so, this may not be a good time to repeat. All children should feel comfortable with their peers.
The IEP committee should determine which of the following items pertains to the child and make the best decision based on the individual child and situation. Sometimes, there may be extenuating circumstances that require a team to consider other reasons to repeat a child in a grade. However, decisions should not be based on overcrowding at a school, convenience, or fear of moving forward. Remember to keep the “I” in IEP. If you feel uncertain about the decision, you can always request more time to decide or another IEP meeting. Ask your teacher to explain why they feel either way and share your thoughts and feelings. If it is appropriate, ask the child what he/she thinks and have him/her in the meeting.
These are just a few personal thoughts regarding repeating a grade. It is important to keep in mind that the IEP committee comes together to make decisions for one individual child. As long as that child is the focus, decisions should be made that will be in the best interest of the child.

Five Ways to Prepare for the Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving generally revolves around food for neurotypical individuals. So what about kids with disabilities who may be picky eaters, be on special diets, or have trouble knowing when they are full? Thanksgiving can be a stressful day for parents of kids with disabilities when you add in all of these factors. How can you be better prepared? Here are 5 different ways to practice and prepare for Thanksgiving to make it a family-filled, fun day.

#5 Begin by visiting the library and reading about different types of fruits and vegetables. If you are not ready for a trip to the library with your child, try and go on your own and bring books home about Thanksgiving, fruits and vegetables, gardens, etc. Talk about fruits and vegetables by color, size (big/little), shape (circle/oval), as well as taste (sweet/bitter/crunchy) and texture (bumpy/smooth).

#4 Take opportunities to play with food- real or pretend food. You can pretend to go grocery shopping, prepare and make a dish, eat, or play in other ways- cut it open and pick out the seeds, use paint and paint with fruits/vegetables, and cook with it. Incorporate something he likes with something he doesn’t like- like apple pie for a child who likes pastries or banana pudding for a child who likes pudding. Be creative and think outside the box. If your child is on a special diet, practice making Thanksgiving items beforehand to judge how your child reacts to them so that you can perfect them before the big day. Eating Right Ontario has a great list of suggestions that vary from exercise with your child to recipes and other ways to play with food.

#3 Play with virtual food. Whether you have access to an ipad or not, there are lots of different computer games and applications that center around food. Spend some time playing some of these games to see what fruits and vegetables your child already knows and which he doesn’t.  For younger kids, games that work on sorting or picking fruits can be simple and enjoyable- play together and use this as a time to talk about the food as you play. For older kids or kids who are reading, check out this word search.

#2 Introduce a few new fruits and vegetables a week. This will depend on your personal preferences and wishes for what you would like to accomplish by Thanksgiving. Having fruits and vegetables in the house is a start. Next, allow your child to see you cutting and preparing the food and of course, eating it. Encourage tasting or even touching, smelling, or licking the fruits and vegetables. If you have a child who has difficulties knowing when he is full, give him small amounts and help him stop before eating too much. Allowing your child to get up and do a preferred activity after eating may help motivate him to stop before overeating.

#1 Hopefully, all of your hard work will pay off today and your child will have a few new choices to eat for Thanksgiving. Prepare them the same way your child liked them originally- don’t try anything new today unless you see some interest. Play it safe. You can provide other foods that your child typically eats as well.

Take time before Thanksgiving to make sure that your family or friends understand your child’s difficulties. This can help avoid additional stress on Thanksgiving day if they understand beforehand that your child is not being rude by not trying their turkey or pumpkin pie. The more you can educate others on your child and his needs, the better off you will be- and less stressed out. Waiting until the day of to discuss your child’s needs may add additional stress and misunderstood.

If you had success using any of these strategies with your child, let me know!

Dr. Rebecca Mullican and Flat Stanley Visit California!

Hi Parents and Kids. Please enjoy my first story and trip with Flat Stanley. The blue words can be clicked on and will teach you new things while you read my story. Enjoy!

Recently, I took Flat Stanley to California! Flat Stanley rode on 2 airplanes to get there! It took a long time! He didn’t have a seat, so he had to sit with the magazines. He did not care because he likes to read. Because it was his first airplane trip, the friendly stewardess brought him a pin that looked like airplane wings- he is not a rookie anymore!

As soon as Stanley and I got to Los Angeles, we went to the Griffith Observatory. I was really excited because a friend had recommended it to me. You can see the whole city of Los Angeles from up there. We were surprised when they saw the Hollywood sign, too! The weather was so cool in California that we rode in the car with the windows down. Stanley was already liking California.

Flat Stanley and Hollywood

The next day, Stanley got to go surfing. He had to wear a wet suit because the water in San Diego is cold. Stanley enjoyed surfing and relaxing in the sun on the beach. Here are some pictures he took at Ocean Beach in San Diego, Ca.

Stanley was really excited on Sunday because he was going to the San Diego Zoo. He took lots of pictures of the animals. His favorite was the gorillas because the mama gorilla was playing with one of her babies. You can watch the animals too by clicking here.

Before Stanley and I came home, we had one more stop- Disneyland. Stanley was so excited because he got to visit Cars Land. Stanley rode lots of rides at Disneyland and California Adventure, but his favorite was the Radiator Springs Racers.

Thanks for stopping by! Come see us again soon and we’ll tell you about our latest adventure!

Dr. Rebecca and Flat Stanley


Learning about Rett syndrome in “The Big Easy”

I am preparing for and getting excited about the 7th World Rett syndrome family conference next week, June 22-24, 2012, in New Orleans, Louisiana! For those of you who are not familiar, Rett syndrome is a developmental disorder that is diagnosed in 1 in 10,000 girls. A child with Rett syndrome will have a period of typical development, followed by a period of slower development or regression. Some signs of Rett syndrome are loss of communication skills and functional use of hands. Signs of Rett syndrome may be easily confused with autism. If you would like to learn more about Rett syndrome, you can learn more at the International Rett Syndrome Foundation:

This year’s conference is especially exciting because it is the first time the United States has hosted this conference. The World Rett syndrome family conference will not only focus on medical issues, but also educational issues such as communication and learning. The following link will take you to the website if you want to learn more about the conference:

UPDATE…The 7th World Rett syndrome congress provided a variety of information for parents and professionals alike! I was surprised to learn that characteristics of Rett syndrome vary widely from girl to girl. Another thing I learned was that Rett syndrome is not exclusively diagnosed in girls anymore, depending on the gene that is affected. It was a busy weekend with lots to learn from focuses from sleep patterns to reading to communication and sibling experiences.