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Your Six Greatest Worries About Kindergarten, and What to Do About Them (page 3)

Your Six Greatest Worries About Kindergarten, and What to Do About Them

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Updated on Aug 30, 2013

Does that mean the child can’t do kindergarten? Not at all, says Middendorf. First, you need realistic expectations. “A half hour of sitting still is too long at this age,” she says. “For a typically developing child in the first three to four months of kindergarten, 10 to 15 minutes of listening to a story is reasonable, provided that the book is at their level and read well.” Second, parents can help by maintaining predictable routines at home. It’s soothing to be able to say, “I know what I’m going to do.”

The three “cardinal features” of attention deficit disorder are hyperactivity, impulsivity and distractibility, says Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Schneider Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park, New York. He says that to quality for an ADD or ADHD diagnosis, a child must display ongoing symptoms in multiple settings (such as home and preschool). “These behaviors must be interfering with the child’s functioning—either educationally or socially,” he says.

Furthermore, specialists must determine that these behaviors are not due to any other underlying cause, such as a learning disability or emotional disturbance. So if you’re in the first months of kindergarten and your child rolls over and wiggles when it’s circle time, hang in there. In all likelihood, Middendorf says, “the message is, ‘I am a five-year-old kid and I’m not ready for this yet.’” In due time, readiness will come.

Speech and Language: My child still does “baby talk” r’s and l’s. Is this a speech defect?

Not necessarily! In kindergarten, lots of kids are still mastering the “late eight” sounds: “th” (the), “s” (snake), “z” (zipper), “l” (little), “r” (run), “er” (brother), “sh” (ship) and “ch” (chip).

“Having problems with a maximum of three of these sounds is normal for the age,” says Simalee Smith-Stubblefield, associate professor of speech-language pathology at University of the Pacific. If your child shows problems with more than three of these sounds, however, or if she has a “speech distortion” such as a lisp, your teacher may recommend a specialist. Quite a few kids receive this special help in kindergarten, only to “graduate” within a few months.

Want to help at home? Practice alliteration—identifying lots of words whose first sound is one that your child is struggling with: rocket, say, followed by rabbit, rock and river. Or slow words down, and have your child repeat them exactly. You can also use word pairs such as “this” and “fish,” which could sound the same if we didn’t pronounce their sounds just right.

Don’t hesitate to make all this goofy and fun. You want your child to associate speech learning with good feelings, not ones of failure or frustration.

Still wondering about any of these questions? Unfortunately, none of them is as simple as “Where’s my cubby?” Children come to kindergarten with such a wide range of experience and temperament. Even a few months in age can make an enormous difference. Stay in close touch with your teacher, share your observations, and give it time. If your child does turn out to have an underlying condition, you will have the best data possible to figure out how to help. But remember, as Middendorf says, “The diagnosis is usually just, ‘I’m young. I’m a little kid.’”

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