3 1/2 year old Formal Daycare/Preschool or not?

by Colleen Devlin
(Pella, IA)

My son is 3 1/2. He has been in a daycare/preschool environment since he was 3 months old. About 8 to 9 months ago, my son was diagnosed with SPD (over-sensitive and sensory seeking). He is currently getting OT appointments once a week. On a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is full blown worst case of SPD he/she has ever seen and 1 is that the child does not have it all), his primary doctor thinks Connor is a 1, but he prescribed OT because I pushed. The OT thinks my son is a 2, 3 or 4. I think he is a 4 or 5. His teacher thinks he is a 10. Let's be honest we all are dealing with him in totally different environmental simulations. He could be those rankings for each situation.

Recently, he has been having problems at pre-school/daycare. He was moved into the 3 year old room (in Feb.)a few months after his diagnosis. Up to June, there were 3 morning teachers in the class of 12(2 are fully functioning adults; one has a medium to serious intellectual disability). As of June, one of the teachers is no longer in the class in the morning. Which leaves the lead teacher and the intellectually disabled care provider. The lead teacher says that my son is struggling more in the last 3 weeks than before. One of her most recent concerns is that my son has started hitting regularly. Something she told me in April almost never did. However, the afternoon classes are going much better for my son.

My family does not allow hitting of other children nor do we allow hitting adults. There is no question he can be very difficult to manage (especially when sensory overload occurs). He has and does hit at home, but I would say it is probably once per day. He is terribly remorseful after it occurs, and when it does happen, both the teacher and I agree, it is like a reflex certainly not planned.

So, as I was discussing the hitting issue with the teacher, she seemed to embellish the story. The thought has crossed my mind that the teacher may be much stressed and might be exaggerating the issue. Regardless, there is no question that this timing coincides with the third teacher no longer being in the room....a teacher, who my son was very fond of. In addition, this means a lot of extra work for the lead teacher. I don't think she is a bad person; actually she is good to and for all the children. I just think my child makes her work a lot harder than most.

The preschool/daycare "evaluated" my son this week. Part of the evaluation was done by the lead teacher and part done by the well-respected daycare director. Now, these folks are not licensed professionals in any way. However, I especially trust the daycare director to be honest, impartial and fair. We discussed the evaluation and the results.

A couple of background things about the evaluation. When the daycare director was not in the room, the lead teacher told us the evaluation was done by the director...as if to imply impartiality. Then we started to review it. When the daycare director joined us, we were on a question that my husband and I completely disagreed with the evaluation(the eval said my son could not use a fork and spoon...he ALWAYS uses silverware....every morning and every dinner. ALWAYS! Cereal, spaghetti, ALWAYS) So, I asked the director about her thoughts on the discrepancy between what we see and they see. The director said she did not fill this out that we would have to ask the lead teacher. We then found out that the first 1 1/2 pages were filled out by the lead teacher...So we felt pretty misled. You can imagine the trust issues from there. As we were already feeling concerned about the lead teacher's motives, this was not reassuring at all. It was almost like she

was overstating the condition several times, and if you think about it she could have reason to. If she got all of us to say my son needed special needs, she would no longer have to work with him. we would remove him or we would hire an assistant to join her room -- returning the ratio of children to teacher back to something she appreciates. I could very well be paranoid.

So, this is what the evaluation found. He knew his numbers very well (all but one number from 0 to 10). He knew all his shapes and all his colors....but he didn't recognize one letter of the alphabet. They have been working on letters since February. Next, his writing is not happening. His art work (cutting well and pasting well) is not happening. The daycare director and the lead teacher both believe my son is slightly developmentally behind, but not because of an ability to learn, but because his sensory processing is preventing him to sit still, follow directions, pay attention, etc. This I buy.

I have asked my OT and the Daycare Director about recommendations on whether my son should stay in the daycare setting or if I should remove him and get him some one-on-one attention. (Note: Money is not something my family is concerned about which allows me to take almost any solution into consideration. This is a real blessing).

So, here is what we are doing:
- We are officially getting my son tested for SPD (and any other issues). I have no doubt it will come back that this is the issue, but I am very concerned that something else will comeback with it as well. Pray for me.

-We are doubling his OT sessions. Let's get this little guy some help here.

-I have arranged for my awesome OT to spend 1 hour in my son's classroom on 3 different days to get her perspective on the class as well as to help give the teachers some pointers on how to recognize the warning signs, what to do if they see them, and, if they miss the signs, how to best handle a meltdown when you have 11 other kids running around.


Should I:

1.) Pull him from his school and have someone work with him one on one until he is 4 1/2 and try a preschool setting then? I am concerned about this because this is a school he has known forever. Quitting will be a very difficult transition (and he doesn't do transitions well, and he says he doesn't want to go to a different school. Plus, he will have to get used to the sounds and sights of school very soon anyway. Shouldn't I use this time to get him used to this type of a schedule?

2.) Pull him and have someone work with him one on one 1/2 days and then put him in the daycare environment in the afternoon?
I am worried about finding someone who is capable of teaching and is willing to work with my special needs son. I am worried about the transitions from one on one time to mass chaos.

3.) Keep him in his existing environment and supplement with a paid worker. I can pick up the tab. The daycare is considering this, but they are non-profit and they need to take into consideration the precedence this sets.

4.) Keep him in his existing environment and see how the OT sessions work as well as the evaluation and make a decision later with all the information. The evaluation is scheduled, but it might not be complete until NOVEMBER! That is a long time from now. Maybe too long.

This is long winded, but I just need some help. No one will weigh in to help me. Help! worries mom of a 3 year old!

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Apr 21, 2017
Going through the same thing
by: Ashleigh

Sounds very familiar... my little 3 1/2 year old was in daycare until around 2 then my husband and I decided to put him into a home daycare (thought he just needed to have some extra attention).

Well my son is very smart and was excelling in and very thing and honestly needed to be in preschool so we chose to put him in w local daycare near my work that I knew some of the teachers. It has been a nightmare.

I'm constantly getting phone calls and texts about what's going on because I do want to know what's going on. Throwing his shoes at his teachers and being mean to his friends when he has to transition to different things.

We are seeing a child psychologist and OT and speech therapy that work with him... he's a sweet kid and I understand him and hope everyone else will soon to understand him too

Aug 31, 2010
Bad Teacher!!!!
by: Sara

I have a college degree in child development and a am licensed EC-4 teacher. First, let me say that the teacher your son is with is not very good. If this person is being dishonest with you about his evaluation and is judging him harshly, chances are she is not offering him the unconditional loving, nurturing, supportive, care he deserves and needs. Nor is she displaying the ethics of someone charged with caring for children. If she was she would just honestly admit she is not able to handle the extra that your child takes and it would be in his best interest to be moved out of her program or will require another teacher to assist in her room. Also, no matter how much you trust and respect the director, she is not being an impartial professional on your child's behalf if she is not addressing the discrepancies that exist in the evaluation. Sometimes, as a teacher/administrator, you have to deliver bad news to parents. An awkward situation, but one that should be handled with professionalism. Neither the teacher nor director have handled this situation as such.

If it were me I would very quickly find a different preschool for him. One with a licensed teacher as the lead teacher. I second the suggestion for a Montessori, as they provide very active learning opportunities.

Finally, the fact that your child is 3 1/2 and knows almost all of his letters and numbers actually puts him above in his development in that area. Roughly half of all Kindergartners are behind him in that area. Furthermore, at his age he is just now developing his fine motor skills and his ability to cut and/or write his letters should not be used to judge whether or not he is having problems. He has a full year before those skills should even be evaluated for normalcy. As for his inability to sit still and listen affecting his learning: How long do they expect him to sit still and listen/learn? The average attention span of a child your son's age is about 15-20 minutes at most, depending on how interested they are in the topic and how distracting the environment is. In a typically developing 3 1/2 YO, you are lucky to get 25 minutes.

As a teacher of young children, I caution all parents to make sure that the expectations are developmentally appropriate. The NAEYC has great info on developmentally appropriate expectations in the preschool environment.

I think my 4 1/2 YO son may have SPD and came across this in my research. Reading through the questions and yours struck a cord in me. I hope this info has been helpful. Good Luck

Aug 29, 2010
trust & honesty?
by: sara

I am just floored that the teacher would blatently lie to you like that. I realize that she is likely overwhelmed and maxed out, but that is NO excuse for lying to parents. In my mind, that speaks VOLUMES of her as a person and her integrity. I'm not sure that I'd want someone like her teaching my son anyway! Did you tell the director that she had lied to you? I think that's important. Whether or not the teacher has too much on her plate or not, she should be forthright with the parents in her classroom. Furthermore, she should ASK FOR HELP if she needs help instead of trying to "get rid of" your son! That's just awful!

So there's my two cents about that. I would have a hard time taking my kid out of her class because I'd feel like I was letting her "win" but that's stupid - I realize it. I would hate myself later if it made things worse for my son just because I wanted to win! (It's the story of my life, actually! pathetic!) My son isn't in day care or preschool and I think that's one of the best things that I can do for him - to put him around his peers to learn to play with them, and learn to share, etc. things that you can't yourself teach him, or pay someone to come into your home to teach him. In my mind, it's important that he has peers to play with an learn to relate to.

I don't feel like YOU should have to pay for an aide for your son at the school. If the teacher can't handle him in her classroom, but he was okay before when there were more teachers, then there's obviously a problem with the ratios. That's the SCHOOLS problem, not yours! Talk with the director about this and let her know that your son was doing FINE until the 3rd teacher left and voice your concerns about her embellishing problems and outright lying to you regarding who completes the assessments. I think that it's important that the director know how her employee is behaving, after all, she may be the only person that some parents have contact with at the school and if I were the director, I wouldn't want my school being portrayed by someone like that.

I hope that all is well with you and that if you had the testing done on your son that everything came back okay. I'd love to talk with you, if you need someone to talk to. You sound intelligent and invested in your sons life - two things that I appreciate in a person :)

I'm thinking of you and hoping that all is going well..


Aug 01, 2010
by: Anonymous

Have you considered Montessori? It provides an environment where children learn and work independently. Children make their own choices of what to do, developing a strong sense of self, and feel as if they have a strong measure of control over their time spent in the classroom. Most often 3 year olds work independently, but along side other children whom are also working. It is not an overly (in a detrimental way) stimulating environment. When children connect to what they are doing with their hands, they naturally center themselves....with little or no help from adults. Lessons are always given one on one. There's a ton of info on the Internet...just google Montessori!

Jul 30, 2010
i understand
by: Anonymous

I have the same problem with my son but the difference is that I am a single parent on unemployment. Well my sons behavioral specialist suggested that I get my son in an environment where there aren't very many children. He still needs an environment where there are kids if u can find it but very few. Maybe an in home daycare. I think you should find a setting in a home that u can trust and make sure there are no more than 5 children in the classroom. I also think if the place where your son goes now is comfortable for you stay tell them about your concerns and have the therapist talk to them and come more often. Your son then can get used to being around kids but also get the therapy that he needs from people he is familiar with (I know this because my son has issues with new people)and maybe eventually to get him used to going to school and being around new people and kids find the school you want him to go to and see if you can sign him up for half a day at the school if they have a 3 year old program and then send him back to the daycare. but only do this when your child shows signs that he is ready and when the therapist suggests that it would be a good time to.

3 year old SPD parent

Jul 20, 2010
Oh, also
by: Anonymous

get yourself a copy of "Wrights Law on special education rights!!!! Kim

Jul 20, 2010
I would go with...
by: Anonymous

I had the same situation when shane was 41/2 also. I had to fight at the time for an aid in the class at pre-school, but i went and brought an advocate and made my point clear!!!!!!
They got it!!!
He did well, still had lots of issues, but he did it.Every year its slightly better.
Now hes going to first grade, reg, class with 3 others like himself, AS, with a shared aid, and they have an emotional support teacher there for when its bad. Also they have a sensory room, he goes there to rock in his rocking chair (in his IEP)and whatever to help him calm himself.
Good luck, dont back down, the parent has the last say!!!!!!
They will try to convince you otherwise, STICK TO YOUR GUNS, good luck, kim

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