#104 for Internationally Adopting Parents
B. Gindis, Ph.D.
Is retention a good idea for an IA child?
To the best of my knowledge, there are no research-based published
studies about international adoptees and grade retention, but in practice
we know that they are retained significantly more often than population
at large. From different parents' surveys one can learn that within
the first 4 years after the adoption as many as 1/3 to a half of families
choose to grade retain their school age adopted children.
In school, any decision on promotion/retention is based on what is called readiness, which has two components, two intertwined but still distinct areas: cognitive/academic (the ability to learn specific academic skills and information) and social/emotional (the ability to function socially in school as an institution and to participate in shared activities with others). These two sides of school readiness do not always develop in harmony: a child may be ready cognitively or language-wise but may be immature socially, or vice versa.
I believe that your decision about retention must always
be highly individualized:
The most important: in order for retention to be as helpful as possible, it must be accompanied by supportive remedial services obtained either through special education department or within the general education for those children that read/write below the 10th percentile in the classroom (as per "No Child Left Behind" provision). Here are some arguments you may use in school to obtain the school approval for retention:
1. My child belongs to "at-risk" category, and
proposed retention serves the goal of preventing the development of
a full-fledged educational handicapping condition. He
2. My child's emotional vulnerability requires a less
stressful school environment. My
3. Chronological age does not necessarily coincide with the actual (developmental) age of post-institutionalized children. Many of them behave like younger children, regulate their emotions and motivation like younger children, have cognitive skills and academic knowledge like younger children - so they should be placed with their real, not "ideal" cohorts.
4. In order to develop my son's potential, we have to
achieve balance between his
5. We have to address our immediate school-related issues in order to avoid further complication in the short-term future. Why should we worry about their socialization issue in high school when they cannot read now, in the second grade? We will cross this "bridge" of peer socialization when we approach it.
I would suggest employing the Light's Retention Scale (LRS) in your dealing with the school. The LRS is a questionnaire that assists parents and school professionals in making sensitive decisions about promoting or retaining a child. The Light's Scale, an easy-to-use recording form, identifies 19 specific areas of concern, including the child's age and the age(s) of siblings, the child's emotional maturity, life experiences, level of intelligence, behavior, and more. The Light's Parent Guide includes a concise statement of important factors used in decision-making. Identifying information: Light's Retention Scale, 1998. By H Wayne Light, Second Edition. Published by Academic Therapy Publications, Inc. 1998. ISBN 0878799141, 80 pages. (Ask your school to order it). You may Google more information about this scale. It is not a "test", but it is a helpful instrument which consists of nineteen evaluation categories with a total of 81 possible choices. This scale can typically be administered and scored within a ten to fifteen minute period. Administration will help you to use your judgment in a retention decision; it is designed specifically to be used as a counseling tool during parent conferences or as a means of determining what educational and psychological research would tell us about the retention candidate.
And last, but not the least: if your child has an IEP already, please use his IEP to create as extensive remedial situation for him, as possible. Thus, while he is repeating the grade, his reading and math are to be in a remedial mode: for reading you may use Wilson reading system (or any similar Orton-Gullingham based program). For math it could be Scott math program or any similar, remedial in nature program, not just a repetition of the same curriculum.
Tatyana Elleseff MA CCC-SLP
Creating a learning rich environment to facilitate language development in adopted preschoolers
This article provides some suggestions on how to facilitate development of language skills (Russian or English) in internationally adopted preschoolers. It offers implementation strategies for parents as well as lists useful websites of interest.