Should I be concerned about my son? — The Bump
School-Aged Children

Should I be concerned about my son?

My son got a note from his 1st grade teacher that he was refusing to work/participate during his math group class. Based on what my son told me and the email she sent me it doesn't sound like he was doing it on purpose. It sounds like he was nervous and feeling bad for not knowing the answer. I guess his teacher was frustrated that he couldn't find the counters to help him figure out what 2 + 2 was. Though she says they were right in front of him and in the same place as they always are for some reason he couldn't find them. Unless he was being disrespectful or flat out told her no I don't really agree with the note I received saying he was refusing to work or participate in his class. Here is the email I received:

 

  "As you know, Alex has been in my math group since the beginning of the school year. Alex has really increased his ability to listen to instructions the first time. He consistently sits within close proximity of me so ensure that he is following along and listening. Just recently he has been able to listen to instructions given the first time. Previously I had to give a reminder to ensure he was listening. Repeating instructions 3 times to him was common. The following is an example: please write the number 6 on line A. Then he would say, what number. When the prompt was given two times previous.

     At times he seems to not know how to be a self starter. If he comes into the classroom and doesn?t see a chair at his spot. He just stands there. Without using his words he doesn?t move. So after waiting him out 5 minutes or so. I would ask him how he could problem solve it. He often responds with ?I don?t know.? This is not only for getting a chair but a pencil that might be on the other side of the table we are working at. So I spoke with Mrs. York about a strategy to ensure that he is working on problem solving those situations. She ensured me that giving him clear directions and an encouraging phrase such as, ?I know you can figure out how to?.? This has been successful for her. So since doing that he has been taking more of an initiative.   

     On Thursday, the students were working on problems that were review. Adding one more and two more. He solved problems 14+1, 8+1, and 5+2. When he solved 2+2 he said 24. I asked him if he started with 2 and moved over two more on the number line, what number would you end up on? He said, ?24.?  I told him to go the shelf where we get counters so he can use this to help him. He said, ?I don?t know where that is.? This is a place where students go to get supplies for activities. He was standing right in front of the shelf and looking at them and said, ?I don?t know what shelf. What am I suppose to get.? So I told him I was confident that he could find counters to help him. So he stood there. When I saw him do this, I said, okay I am looking at the clock and it says 9:50, this is way past our time. From here on out, you will need to start owing me your recess time. About 10 minutes later one of the para?s came in and didn?t realize he was trying to problem solve where to get the counters as he was now sitting in front of the shelf where we get the counters. She got them for him and helped him. When he came to me and said 2 + 2 is 4. I said, ?Great, how did you know how to solve this.? He said, ?She helped me.?  

      This was a task that I was confident that he knew how to do and was able to take counters out of an open container on the shelf to help him with this task. In our program, we are working on students using numbers lines and visualizing moving over on those numbers. Adding two more is not a new task in facts we have been working on this for a few months. In order to solidify number conservation students are taught to know that a 2 is 2 and a two has two objects. So holding a number, usually the largest and counting on the next number . When figures are used, the prompt is what number are you starting with, then what is one more, then two more. He is able to verbalize this and complete it on activities. We do work extensively on holding a number in our head then counting on. Please let me know if you have any further questions."

 

     I don't know but do you think that he should have had his recess taken away for not knowing where the counters were or for saying he didn't know where they were (even if they were in the same spot as they usually are)? Couldn't she just have helped him like the other teacher did?  My son does have anxiety and if she made him feel bad for not knowing what 2 + 2 was I can understand why he'd be feeling a littler nervous and his mind not functioning as it normally would. I am also curious how long much longer she would have made him keep looking for them? She said she kept him 10 minutes past while the rest of his peers returned to their regular 1st grade class. Another teacher happened to walk in and spotted them for him. He figured out the answer on his own. The purpose of him going to his math group is to learn how to solve math problems...not to spend his time looking for counters that he obviously couldn't find. Haven't we all looked for something we spent hours looking for only to realize it was right in front of our eyes all along? Am I overreacting to the way I perceive his math teacher (who is not his regular 1st grade teacher) treated him? If I'm not overreacting how should I handle this?

 

I received feedback from a different board on this site and many of them think he has a learning disability and it's his fault he got his recess taken away (they also noted his teacher's bad writing skills/punctuation). I have no problem with him having recess taken away so long as it's a legitimate reason...and it always has been in the past. My son is very bright and has never been diagnosed with a learning disability of any type. I took him to a psychologist a few months ago because I thought he had ADHD but she told me she felt he had anxiety. The reason I thought he had ADHD is because he has difficulty staying on task at school but I was told he isn't disrespectful. I have no problem when his 1st grade teacher complains about this because she's very encouraging. She's a very positive influence in his life but I'm not so sure I agree with his math teacher. I feel she's picking on him for not getting a simple answer right and then punishing for not being able to find something. Can you imagine how his peers react to this? One thing his 1st grade teacher did tell me that worried me is that his peers often don't want to work with him because they think he's going to get them in trouble since they know that he's constantly getting reminded to stay on task. She said that was a problem at the beginning but not anymore. That kind of breaks my heart to hear that it would be allowed in class but I can also understand it.

 

Re: Should I be concerned about my son?

  • I am a teacher, I taught 1st grade for 2 years and I now teach kindergarten. Does your son have an IEP or a behavior plan or anything put into place for him? The rest of my response kind of rests on that information Smile
  • My POV is coming from that of a teacher....   

      I don't know but do you think that he should have had his recess taken away for not knowing where the counters were or for saying he didn't know where they were (even if they were in the same spot as they usually are)? Couldn't she just have helped him like the other teacher did? It sounds like he was simply standing in front of the shelf and looking back at the teacher.  He wasn't attempting to problem-solve and find the cubes.  I have no problem helping students at all, but I want to see some evidence of them trying to figure out things on their own before I swoop in.     My son does have anxiety and if she made him feel bad for not knowing what 2 + 2 was I can understand why he'd be feeling a littler nervous and his mind not functioning as it normally would. I am also curious how long much longer she would have made him keep looking for them? She said she kept him 10 minutes past while the rest of his peers returned to their regular 1st grade class. Another teacher happened to walk in and spotted them for him. He figured out the answer on his own. Solved what on his own?  The math problem?  Or finding the counters? The purpose of him going to his math group is to learn how to solve math problems...not to spend his time looking for counters that he obviously couldn't find. Haven't we all looked for something we spent hours looking for only to realize it was right in front of our eyes all along? Am I overreacting to the way I perceive his math teacher (who is not his regular 1st grade teacher) treated him? If I'm not overreacting how should I handle this? Yes, we do, but (at least as it seems to be presented here) is that in this scenario, we're actively looking and not standing in the same spot saying, "I don't know where my keys are." 

     

    I received feedback from a different board on this site and many of them think he has a learning disability and it's his fault he got his recess taken away (they also noted his teacher's bad writing skills/punctuation). I have no problem with him having recess taken away so long as it's a legitimate reason...and it always has been in the past. My son is very bright and has never been diagnosed with a learning disability of any type. I took him to a psychologist a few months ago because I thought he had ADHD but she told me she felt he had anxiety. The reason I thought he had ADHD is because he has difficulty staying on task at school but I was told he isn't disrespectful. Having ADHD =/= being disrespectful. I have no problem when his 1st grade teacher complains about this because she's very encouraging. She's a very positive influence in his life but I'm not so sure I agree with his math teacher. If your son's teacher is saying the same thing as this math teacher, then they are both speaking "the truth."  It sounds like you may not like the approach of the other teacher, but it doesn't mean she's 'wrong" especially if, like I said, they are saying the same thing. I feel she's picking on him for not getting a simple answer right and then punishing for not being able to find something. Again, I don't think this is about the math.  I think this is more about not attempting to solve a problem on his own. The chair example is a good one.  A simple solution would be to look around for a chair....not stand there.  I'd watch a child to see what they're going to do and then approach them with something similar, "How can we solve this?"  Can you imagine how his peers react to this? One thing his 1st grade teacher did tell me that worried me is that his peers often don't want to work with him because they think he's going to get them in trouble since they know that he's constantly getting reminded to stay on task. She said that was a problem at the beginning but not anymore. That's odd to me.  If one students can't stay on task there should be no consequences for the others. That kind of breaks my heart to hear that it would be allowed in class but I can also understand it.

     

     

     

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  • I've read through your post as well as the teacher replies you received. What I'm thinking after reading all the information you provided is that your son's anxiety or nervousness is causing him problems in the classroom. It sounds like it might be mpacting him so much that he becomes almost immobilized.  That's what would concern me as a parent - not whether or not this teacher is picking on him.

    She took the time to write you a very long and detailed email. Yes, it had some grammar and punctuation errors. But she's giving you extremely important feedback about your son's classroom behavior.  I would take her information and your son back to the psychologist or to a developmental pediatrician for further evaluation.

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  • I think it sounds like his anxiety is impacting him to the point you need to explore an IEP or 504 plan.  It sounds like he's petrified of making a mistake/doing the wrong thing and would rather do nothing at all then make a mistake.  That would greatly concern me, my is only 4 and already I see this behavior in him and it scares me.  In your shoes I would initiate the IEP process to ensure he's going to really get what he needs and in the meantime talk to his math teacher about his anxiety, letting her know that you support the standard expectations but that you also have strong concerns about supporting his confidence so he doesn't come to hate school.  That he may need a little more support than a typical kid and while you appreciate her desire to make him independent that you hope she can see that he is going to need a bit more help.

    Does the math teacher know he has anxiety?  If not I think she needs that info ASAP.  You can't expect her to just know what is going on his head, even if it seems obvious to you it may look to her like he just doesn't want to try.  His entire school career he's going to have some teachers that are more suited to his personality than others and its sounds like you've got that in his main teacher to that is important.  You'll also have to work with him on dealing with teachers that are not as tuned into him.

  • Mom of fellow 1st grader here!  I also teach high school, and I have taught/tutored kids with various mild to moderate learning disabilities for years.

    I think the teacher is trying to to make you aware of how much of an issue these behaviors are for your son.  She's letting you know she sees something in your son that's not typical.

    She's taking away time from recess because she has to sort out whether or not he's doing it willfully.  If he's just gotten into the habit of stalling and waiting for an adult to do things for him, the consequence of losing recess time should push him through that.  If he faces the threat of losing recess time and he STILL can't solve the problem, she'll know that there's more going on.

    So, don't be so focused on the punishment.  She's giving him an incentive.  It would be nice if this incentive was a positive reward and not a consequence.  However, I suspect she's a little frustrated with your son because this issue is causing her to expend a disproportionate amount of time/attention on him each day. 

    Question:  do you see this at home?  Do you continually swoop in to rescue or solve problems for him?  (It's easy to do, as a mom -- I realized the other day I was still filling my 7 y/o son's water cup every time he needs a drink of water.  Meanwhile, the kid's totally capable of getting his own darn water!  I just had to refuse to do it a few times until he figured it out.) 

    I think you should get a second opinion and not go in suggesting that it's ADHD.  The psychologist you took him to before was responding to your question of whether it's ADHD or not.  Just say "he has trouble problem solving and getting himself started on activities."  See what they say.

    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • So is she his math teacher, or his teacher for how to find chairs and pencils and counters? If his problem is anxiety, letting him sit there for 10 minutes without knowing where the counters were and worrying about missing recess doesn't sound like it's going to help his math at all.

     ["So I spoke with Mrs. York about a strategy to ensure that he is working on problem solving those situations. She ensured me that giving him clear directions and an encouraging phrase such as, ?I know you can figure out how to?.? ]

    Also, to me this is discouraging. If she had to ask another teacher for advice on this one, it sounds like she doesn't have much sense or classroom management skills. If he's not a self starter, then I think she needs to be doing more to get him started, instead of waiting him out 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there. Maybe schedule a conference with her and his other teacher to get to the bottom of this.

    People have suggested the need for an IEP for him. Perhaps, he does need one, but maybe he just needs some individual accomodation that can be made without the formality of psychologists and meetings.

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  • I HATE the phrase "learning disability". I am a mother of a 6 year old who has similar issues as your son. I have had him evaluated and he was given an IEP (Individual Education Plan) through his school and it was determined that he needed to be in a CTT (collaborative team teaching) class. The students get the same curriculum as the "regular" classes and they are not separated from the non-CTT kids but there is a second, special ed teacher who helps put the kids back on track when they get distracted.

    My son is great with math but his problem is with reading comprehension - he can read but he has trouble saying what the story was about. He has frustration issues and does tend to act out when he can't do something.

    Talk to the teacher and if your school has an IEP department or social worker, see that your son is evaluated. He may just need some extra support. If your school doesn't have something like that, contact your Board of Education and see that they arrange an eval.

    I also just want to add that my son was born in November so he is much younger than most of the other children in his class (some kids turned 7 just this past January and February and My DS won't turn 7 until the end of the year) so there is also a maturity factor involved. When was your son born? That could have a lot to do with what he can do and how he does it.

  • Am I the only one concerned that a 6yo needs help with 2+2?  Is he receiving help for math?  I would be concerned about the anxiety and his teachers inability to sympathize, I would get him evaluated but also meet with the teacher in the meantime to make sure she is not making it worse, if she sees you are looking into it she will likely be more receptive. 
    Jen - Mom to two December 12 babies Nathaniel 12/12/06 and Addison 12/12/08
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