Today at a parent teacher conference, my second grader’s private school is suggesting psycho-educational testing due to his behavior issues in class and want us to meet with their resource teacher and principal. They report that he sometimes refuses to do work, talks out of place, and doesn’t listen. In essence, he has a bit of an attitude — which, of course, we address at home through consequences for poor behavior and rewards for positive behavior. The negative behaviors were evident in kindergarten and first grade, but seem to be improving each year. I thought these improvements meant he was simply growing up.
I am concerned about their request for testing at this point. He is a straight A student with a history of excellent grades, can sit still, can focus in spite of distractions, and has a rich social life. I am worried that the school is “jumping” to test him out of frustration as he makes them work a little harder. They have not suggested that he is “gifted” and in need of more challenging work.
I suspect many school personnel push for diagnosis and medication to make their job easier, and believe many children are unnecessarily diagnosed and medicated in this country. I fear a label and a diagnosis for my son that will hurt him rather than help him. I want to tread carefully, while respecting the schools opinion. I simply want what’s best for my son. I intend on having an independent evaluation — not with the professional the school recommends. What advice can you offer me?
May I start with your comment that you want what is best for your son. I also believe that his teacher and principal also want what is best for your son. This shared desire needs to be the starting point. Sit down with them and listen to their concerns. You mention that he has had similar problems since kindergarten; thus, if the school professionals are concerned again this year, something needs to be clarified. Ask questions about what they are observing in class. Share what you are seeing at home. Try to find common ground on what the current concerns are and think through with them why these concerns might exist.
I believe that behavior is a message. Our task is to find out what message your son is sending. Why does he show an attitude? Why does he sometimes refuse to do his work? Why might he talk out of place or not listen? Where are his academic skills now as compared to where they should be? Try not to be defensive. Listen. Think about their concerns. Raise your questions: “Is he gifted and bored? Are you not setting consequences for his behaviors?”
At the end of this meeting, try to plan next steps. Maybe they will try additional efforts and meet again in month. Maybe you will agree to studies to clarify why he is having difficulty. If testing is done, ask to meet again after the results are available to discuss the results and to plan any needed interventions.You and the school professionals share a concern about your son. Don’t react in frustration or misread their intentions. Do what we teach our kids. Sit down and talk.