Post Pandemic Pre-school, socialization and behavioral challenges

Hello Everyone, 

I am a UC Berkeley Student parent with a 3-year-old in the ECEP pre-k program. We started school one month ago as the first time social experience. My son is bilingual and speech delayed. He has a good vocabulary in both languages. Yet, he uses only short phrases, single words, and repetitive phrases and paragraphs from familiar books, cartoons, or personal experiences he had before. The school is pressing me to request and provide them an IEP plan from day one, claiming that my child is not following general directions, rules, and commands. They have zero compassion and or personal approach to help my child with the transitional challenges and his difficulties to adjust to the new environment.

As a student, I was highly dependant on this program as I started in-person classes and was hoping to have the school for weekday occupation for him. I have zero experience with the US school system as I moved to the US a few years ago. I know that something is wrong with this place but don't know how to fight and stand for my child, as they should not compare the children and try to meet his needs, provide him a safe space and help him grow. It feels like their priority is to follow their protocols rather than to understand my son's specific difficulties during his transition and meeting his needs. I would appreciate any thoughts, tips, and advice, as well as local Speech Therapy and SLP that you had a great experience with. I do not want to jump with decisions and go through assessments without creating a social environment for him and seeing if he gets better with socialization. He does not show interest in playing with kids his age yet wants to play with older kids. We do not have any extended family and friends. I would appreciate knowing if there are any playdates or special activities near me, where we can have some social interaction with other kiddos. In UC village, I noticed people prefer to interact within small groups based on their specific cultures. Thank you so much for your contribution and advice. 

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I think you may be misunderstanding the purpose of an IEP. What it does is provide a personal approach and a roadmap for the school to meet his needs, provide him a safe space, and help him grow. Some of the behaviors you're describing are significantly concerning for developmental issues that may not just get better with time. I say this as a pediatrician and a mom of a kid with an IEP. I don't practice in your specific area, but almost every patient of mine whose preschool has recommended evaluation for an IEP has qualified for one. They then go on to receive developmental services that can be helpful for them. I'd strongly encourage you to go ahead with the evaluation process.

To me, it doesn't sound like the preschool is doing anything wrong. It may just not be the right place for your son. My kids went to Cornerstone, which is near the Cal campus, and we thought they were wonderful. I also would not wait on speech therapy in case they are correct. No harm in getting evaluated. Just go through your pediatrician to ask for an evaluation for speech therapy. That's what we did for my son when he was 3. Turned out the preschool was wrong about his speech and he didn't actually qualify for services, but we were glad for the peace of mind. For playdates, I just asked around at the preschool and teachers were happy to connect us with other parents. 

Hi there, Long story short, I recommend getting an IEP. It definitely won't hurt and may help. And it won't be in the way of other ways to make your kid feel more comfortable and socialized. Most likely they'll find there are no issues with your kid which would shut the daycare up. And if there's an issue, then they will provide free support and you can get a second opinion if you don't agree with it.

Long story. I came to the US when I was 20 from Russia, and spoke to both of my kids in Russian. My son had language delays, my daughter had not. In case of my son, his daycare went a step further than yours and said they thought he was developmentally disabled. They insisted on the IEP and said that *they* needed to advocate for him because we haven't requested an IEP immediately when he turned 3, implying we were bad parents who didn't care enough about our own kid and they had to take over the duty to advocate for him. While our daycare was acting inappropriately and it sounds like yours has issues in that area as well, getting the IEP is actually a good thing. In my son's case, they told the daycare he was perfectly fine as far as mental abilities, but needed speech therapy - which they provided for free and it was absolutely fantastic. That was a while back and there was no COVID, so it may be different now, but back then Berkeley had a great IEP assessment team that made the whole assessment process easy and stress-free. 

IEP assessments are not traumatic to kids and to adults, at least it was not in our case and I haven't heard of anyone suffering from that either. You don't have to share them with anyone, but then they can actually help find the right support for your kid if needed. My son is in college now, and thanks to that IEP he still gets support for his learning issues (he also has a mild case of ADHD so he gets extra time for timed tests). Again, there's no stigma in assessments and evaluations.

Take care, and don't worry. It'll be alright...

Hi, 

First of all I am sorry to hear your kiddos school is not supporting you. I was in a similar situation a few years ago with my 3y old son. I am also an international student and my son is also bilingual. 

His preschool was also pressuring us to do all kinds of things without taking us as parents serious. My son is six now and speaks perfectly and was also not that interested in playing with others. I think it’s typical for that age range. 

However, because our son seemed speech delayed we did consult with a speech therapist. You can contact your primary care doctor and they can advice you. Re the preschool, for us personally we decided to split ways with the preschool. That was not an easy choice, but we ended the year and went to another preschool and that turned out great for us and our son. Good luck, parenting is sometimes hard but remember you are an expert on your kiddo and yes, early intervention can be helpful. Talk to you kid’s pediatrician. 

If you are interested in speech therapy, at 3 he may qualify for speech therapy through the public school system where you live (which means it will be free). They will do an assessment, see if he qualifies and then connect him to a school speech therapist. We did this recently with our 4 year old in Oakland Unified School District. He is also bilingual and they took that into account. He now has an IEP which lays out what his delays are, what therapy he will get and what the goals of that therapy is on what timeline. As parents it was a document the speech therapist who assessed him and we created together. We had to sign off on it and agree to the plan. It was a very colabrative process.

My son loves his once a week speech therapy. He goes there for 45 minutes in the morning and then I take him to his regular preschool. It did take him a while to go through the assessment and placement process because the district was backed up because of Covid. But when we looked at private speech therapists they had the same problems.

If you have questions about it, talking it through with your pediatrician is always a good idea. They may be able to connect you the therapists and also tell you if he's on track or not.

Hi,

I think that this might just be a communication issue. You view an IEP as a bad thing when in reality it's extremely helpful. Your child will get a lot more help, and the school will get paid to provide the extra help, if there's an IEP in place. Addressing speech issues before kindergarten starts is definitely in your child's best interests. You should cooperate with the school and follow their advice. I get the feeling that you view this suggestion as negative feedback on your parenting when that couldn't be farther from the truth. My son had a speech IEP when he was your son's age and they were able to get him up to speed before kindergarten started. Now he has a different IEP and it allows him to get help at school with his schoolwork, executive functioning, etc. This has been a really good thing for us. An IEP has nothing to do with behavioral issues, it's just the administrative process required to get our kids the help they need. Good luck with everything. It sounds like you're having a hard transition to life in the US but I can promise you that it will get better.

Hi NInel86,

What languages does your child speak? Your child is exhibiting a perfectly normal bilingual trajectory and doesn't need to be in a special plan. It's unfortunate that the program your son is enrolled in doesn't recognize that. That's just my opinion from raising 4 multilingual kids myself. Yes, the speech delays are normal, and it is also normal for parents of bilingual children to wonder when they will catch up. The answer is pretty soon! As they are more and more exposed to the English-dominant environment, you will start wishing they spoke their home language more.

Our family tries to cultivate the small specific culture group ties as a counterweight to the school circles that my older kids run in.

Would love to reach out privately about playdates.