Last week, I did something I never thought I would do: I pulled Syona out of preschool. She started school in November and it was a tough transition with lots of tears. But we persevered. We faced the same transition again after the holiday break, when Syona returned to school in January. This time she managed to get over the separation anxiety, but instead transferred her attention over to her teachers and would get really upset and cry when they turned their attention away from her, even for a moment.
The teachers tried a number of different techniques but Syona wasn’t getting any better. So we enlisted the services of someone who specializes in behaviour to make some suggestions. Her thought was that Syona might be acting out because she couldn’t participate in the same ways as the other kids and was frustrated. She also thought that Syona was aware she needed the teachers to move her around and facilitate her participation, so she got upset when she didn’t have their full attention. I also think the fact that Syona is two and an only child — with a diva attitude that could go toe-to-toe with the likes of Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj combined — has a lot of to do with it.
The specialist’s suggestions included making the other kids in the class part of the solution (e.g. when Syona was crying, bring them near her, explain that she was upset and ask them to help figure out why and participate in making Syona feel better). This is something that we do when Syona plays with her cousins or other close friends’ kids, and it works really well most of the time. It also develops empathy and inclusive behavior in children from a very young age, which I think is a great bonus. The other issue was that Syona would get so worked up that the teachers would take her out of the room to try and calm her down. In my most humble and untrained of opinions, this is something that seems to reward her behaviour, while isolating her from her peers even more, and it just wasn’t working.
The school suggested that we get a one-on-one aide or have a family member attend preschool with Syona. While I know that Syona will likely need an aide when she starts to attend elementary school, I just didn’t think it was the solution for preschool. My instincts told me that Syona would just redirect her attention to yet another adult (and really, who wants to pay preschool fees when an adult could take her to any number of free Ontario Early Years Centre programs or more reasonably priced parks and rec programs?).
The truth is, I was pretty disappointed because I really believe that a different approach might have worked and that we hadn’t exhausted all of our options. But if she was attending a preschool that couldn’t take that on (they do have a dozen other kids to take care of), it likely wasn’t the best fit for us, or Syona either.
I decided to listen to that little voice inside my head and talk to Dilip. After our discussion we chose to remove her from the program (at the very least, my lightweight 20-pounder isn’t burning all those extra calories crying for three hours)! We’re planning to have her attend a couple of other programs with other kids up until June, some therapy-based “summer camps,” and then she will start a new school in September.
So like everything else in the wonderful world of parenting (and especially when you throw special needs into the mix), we’ll keep rolling with the punches, tackling each challenge that comes our way and coming up with new plans as needed. And in this journey, I figure there are three things I can always count on: my family and friends for support, my instincts and my strong-willed daughter who will flourish when she finds her niche in the world.
What role do your instincts play in parenting? How do they guide your decisions?
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