Barbara, Hi. I am a parent of two children. My daughter, Lily, is 9, and my son Trey is 6.
Lily is the child that I am having questions about right now. She is in the 3rd grade, and has been at the same school since Pre-K 4. (6 years at the school.) She has hydrocephalus which has made her head a little larger than normal, and she does not run very fast. She tends to shake her head a lot. Well, as you might guess at this point, she has no friends. The playground at recess is a sad place for her. She tends to talk to teachers, because the girls do not want to include her in anything. We have been seeing a child psychologist for about 4 years. One of his suggestions was to invite children over to my home for playdates. (One on One) I have done this, but I have found that the girls will come over and play with Lily for hours, and have a good time. When we go back to school, those girls go back to playing with their usual friends. Another problem is that a few girls who may want to try to include her in things now and again have been eliminated from their peer groups as a result of that effort.
This is a Catholic school. I have been wanting to pull her out of this school for years,but my husband is dead set against it. We have bitter fights every time the subject comes up. He clearly has the upper hand. My idea was that we get her a new school, new kids, and new opportunities to make friends. He says "no", she stays where she is, and learns to deal with this. He also keeps saying that Lily needs to be nice to everyone, even when they're hurting her feelings and saying mean things to her. Any advice you can give would be much appreciated.
From: Diane, Metairie, Louisiana
I'm going to give you something objective around which you and your husband can frame a discussion. What, exactly, in concrete terms, has this school done to support and help your daughter with social and emotional development? I want to see teachers engaging classmates in discussions about the diversity of challenges we all have. I want to see them facilitating her integration into play at recess, not standing around talking to her. Specifically, I want to see that the school has a social competency program in place, something such as Open Circle?
I don't know anything about the school system in your area -- and I have nothing against independent schools -- but, in general, public school is a better place than an independent school for a child with challenges of any kind, unless we're talking about an independent school that caters to the challenges. Public schools are mandated to deal with diversity of all kinds. I'm on your side on this, Diane. She deserves a fresh start not because she can't deal with her own issues but because she needs a school that has appropriate tools -- and attitude -- to help her.
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