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I am in need of some advice, guidance, suggestions, etc… regarding social development and developmental milestones for 3-4 year olds. My husband and I have 3 years-5 month old twins and are in a private preschool that is affiliated with our synagogue. Their 3-year old class meets three mornings a week from 9am-12:45pm. We had our mid-year parent-teacher conference last week. Miranda is doing wonderfully! However, Liam on the other hand, the teacher and school director have multiple concerns about -- transition issues, larger group activity aclamation and participation, social 'maladjustment', sharing, getting frustrated easily, self discipline, attention span difficulties. Please note these are my 'labels' of the issues, as the school director and teacher had difficulty labelling and providing concrete examples, but rather more generalities. The largest issue with Liam is his biting. He bites other children (boys, not girls) not out of meanness or maliciousness, but because he is frustrated with sharing a toy or cannot communicate his need or desire to the other child. To date this has happened about 3 or 4 times. None of which has gone through the skin, or even close thankfully! (It should be noted that he was a late talker - he did have early intervention services for speech, but tested out of receiving services at the 3 year old evaluation.) The interesting thing is that Liam is a very different child in small individual settings versus in a classroom environment apparently. At home he attends to task, follows directions, shares with his sister, has a long attention span for his toys and games. When we go out and see other family and friends he is a very social, loveable child - always cooperative and plays nicely without much discipline needed. Back to preschool thing - the director and teacher recommended that Liam be developmentalally evaluated. I am in the process of arranging that with the child study team in our school district. They want to plan a formal meeting with the team, parents, and teacher/director in the next couple of weeks, then do a formal observation of Liam in the classroom environment, and then recommend from there (additional testing or evaluation and/or feedback/guidance for learning/development strategies in the classroom). My husband and I are scared to death that Liam will bite once more and be expelled from the preschool. Additionally, we love him VERY much and only want to see him excel and succeed in the preschool environment, without labelling him as the 'biter' or 'bad boy' in the class. We feel like we are up a creek without a paddle, and have no idea what to do. I hope that my explanation was clear and succint. Thank you in advance for any professional guidance you can give me. It will be greatly appreciated!!


Naomi Drew Replied: My heart goes out to you as you listen to people at your son's preschool suggest there may be something wrong. The very positive thing I'm hearing, however, is that Liam is a well-behaved, well-adjusted little boy in all other settings. Maybe preschool isn't for him. How many children are in this pre-school class? I wonder if the settin is setting him off? Some children don't deal well with lots of stimulation. He's only three, for goodness sake. Maybe he jneeds a more mellow, less structured setting. It's not one size fits all when it comes to kids. Some kids do better in certain settings than others. The biting may be resulting from his discomfort in the preschool setting. Do you have any other alternatives for Liam? If you are working and need preschool as child care, I can understand your concern about the possibility of his being asked to leave. However, if you're not working, why does he have to go to preschool? On the other hand, if you are working, could you consider trying a sitter who only watches a few children? Maybe being watched in someone's home with just a few kids to interact with would be a better option for him. If you're home, maybe he could just skip preschool for now. Let him mature a little, and try again when he's older. Why stress yourself (and him) out, if you don't have to? Life is long, and your little boy has many years to be in school. There's no reason to rush it.
Posted On 2009-09-22 09:46:23
Debbie Feit Replied: Of course you want only the best for your son. And it sounds like you're in good hands, given that the preschool would like to evaluate, rather than expel him. I know it can be frightening when your child's development or behavior is called into question—I've been there myself. As nervous as you and your husband might be, the evaluation will provide important information that will allow you to best help your son, so I encourage you to continue your plans with it. Let's talk about your son's speech delay. You say that his biting is the result of his frustration with his inability to communicate his needs. You also say he received some speech therapy from the school but was "tested out." It seems to me Liam's speech needs to be re-evaluated. If the school still finds that he doesn't qualify, I would strongly encourage you to seek an evaluation with a private speech therapist. The schools are required to follow a strict set of criteria when it comes to determining which children will "qualify" for services. So even if a child doesn't qualify by their standards, that doesn't mean he or she isn't in need of services of some kind. It's possible that all of Liam's difficulties—the attentional issues, social challenges, biting, transitioning—could be attributed to a speech or language problem. So a speech evalution would be a good starting point.
Posted On 2008-03-17 14:25:27
Janet Price Replied: Your love and concern for your son, Liam, is very apparent. Children's behavior is always about communication, so Liam is telling his classmates and teachers something when he bites. It sounds like the teachers are not clear about what his biting and other negative behaviors might be about, as they were so vague with you. So, next steps need to include working together (you with his teachers) to discover what Liam is trying to communicate. Having a developmental evaluation is a good start. That can rule out and rule in any developmental factors that may be contributing to Liam's frustrations. I also recommend that you go into the classroom and observe yourself, on a regular basis if possible (even once a month). That provides the opportunity for you to see what might be different about Liam's interactions at school, versus in other situations where you observe Liam behaving appropriately with peers. It is possible that Liam is struggling with sensory issues, which would affect Liam's ability to handle larger group experiences. So I recpommend that you ask the evaluation team to include some testing in that arena, as well, during the developmental evaluation. And remember, you have the right to ask for evaluations that focus on areas that you feel are needed. I wish you the best, as you work together to unravel this mystery of Liam's struggles in school.
Posted On 2008-02-25 11:51:40
Norman Hoffman, Ph.D. Replied: It has been my experience, as a child development specialist, that many children, who come from the same loving family, can be "different." They can be harder to raise and cause many problems along the way as they get older. It is absolutely important to have your child evaluated by a child development team to determine "where he is developmentally" and what needs to be done to work towards resolution. This may be an easy fix, or not. It all depends on the child and what the root cause is, and what limitations and assets can be determined by the evaluation. Of course the biting must be stopped. There are many behavioral management techniques in many child development books. I know my answer is generalized, but without knowing more about your child's total history and developmental milestones, and how you have responded to his behavior, it would irresponsible to provide more detailed advice. Perhaps after the assessment is completed, you can request further advice.
Posted On 2008-01-30 07:07:17
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