Guest Blogger: Sanj Sukumaran

I am married to a very smart man.  He is a wealth of knowledge.  Sanj has finally started a blog… this is a post he just wrote, an issue close to my heart.

I have been blogging for a bit now and thought it was time to tackle a subject that is pertinent to me as a parent as well as a professional. As an Audiologist I do a test called a Central Auditory Processing evaluation. This test is simply put a listening test rather than a hearing test. I tell the kids that we adults like to use big words to say simple things sometimes. Typically children are sent to me by pediatricians or teachers when they are concerned with staying on task, task initiation and  task completion. Often language based learning dificulties aslo are reported. We do the Central Auditory Evaluation (CAP) to either rule out this possibility or include it as an element of the difficulty that the child is encountering. While I could go on and speak about CAP I would actually like to speak to a consistency that I have seen on an everyday basis.

Out of the thousands of children I have seen over the years for this assesment the vast majority ( perhaps as much as 85%) of these children are born in the last quarter of the year. These are the children having a difficult time with staying on task, task initiation, task completion, and in general, language based learning. More specifically of this 85 % a majority of these children are boys. Should we be shocked? What do we expect in a province that change the kindergarten curriculum to include learning phonetics in Junior Kindergarten and expect early reading in senior Kindergarten. These children are starting school as three year olds and being expected to differentiate sounds phonetically. My Speech Pathologist friends have a lot to say about neuromaturation being insufficient at this point to make this expectation one that is reasonable for all. As a father of six boys I can definitely tell you that many a child is barely independent enough to be in school at three, some are barely potty trained, yet we expect them to learn phonetics and other basic skills that they are not ready for. What ever happened to Kindergarten being a time for social interaction and development , learning to share, learing the posturing that is required for the expectations of grade one.

As parents we are led to believe that the world is such a competitive place that our child needs every oportunity to step over  or on the competition to find the ability to stand out. We have learned to demand so much of our children and expect so much so early. The complication is that for those children that are not ready to integrate this learning, they simply miss it and are left with many blanks in the learning continuum. This point has been so obvious to me that when it came time for my child born in November to enroll for JK  I went to the principal and educated him as to why we were waiting till the next year to enoll our child in JK. Interestingly this was a point of discussion that was new to the principal. As might be expected those in the educational institutions take for granted that the curriculum development and age of entry requirements are well considered by those designing the educational process. In reality my wife and I were more concerned about social readiness as oposed to our childs ability to do the work required. We felt that from a confidence standpoint we would rather have our child feel like they were leading the pack rather than chasing it.

I can tell you that in this case our age of entry and understanding of neuromaturation is incongruous with the learning requirements of early education. It only makes sense that a child born in December for example is going to be at a very different stage of development than the child born in January. In junior Kindergarten this year of difference represents a significant percentage of the childs life. In the book “Freakanomics” an interesting anomaly was noted in terms that make this age predjudice understandable on a real practical level. The stat that I reference is one that found the NHL to be made up of players born primarily in the first few months of the year. Recently it was specified that 33% of all NHL players were born in the month of February. These stats point to the fact that maturationally these were kids that were bigger more co-ordinated and stood out in the tryout process as compared to those that were born later in the year. What it does not mean is that these were the more inherently talented kids. This parallels developmental readiness versus intellect.

The bottom line is that we as a society seem to be in such a hurry to get our children into school so that they can attain the educational goals set forth as they move towards excellence. Perhaps we need to slow down a little and not be in such a hurry to rush our children towards goals of success at the risk of frustrating them and destroying the self confidence of otherwise capable minds.

Written by Sanjeev Sukumaran

Check out his blog at www.theearcompany@blogspot.com

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2 Responses to Guest Blogger: Sanj Sukumaran

  1. Laura says:

    Social readiness and size (our son is on the small size) were both big points of consideration for us when we were discussing when to start sending him to school. We ultimately decided to start him in K at age five. He had never been in school before, but the fact that he would be the oldest child in his class, and that his class only had four children, helped us to feel confident that he would not fall through the cracks. He has done very well, and matured dramatically, but under other circumstances (i.e. larger class, for instance) it is very likely that he would have fallen through the cracks in Kindergarten, and I would likely have put him in pre-K just to ensure that didn’t happen. Unfortunately for us here in the states, public schooling offers very little flexibility regarding those decisions. We must enroll our children within the age range they require, and as such I think we set some kids up for failure. We are so thankful to be able to choose other options for our kiddo, where the school understands and works with our child’s individual needs.

  2. Hi Laura, isn’t that the thing, we as parents know our children and have an understanding of readiness for learning on so many levels. For those that make decisions for entry into school with the best interest of their child in mind flexibility should be encouraged. Here in Canada we also have these regulations and principals will tell you that you are required to put your child in school the year they turn 4. You can choose not to put your child in JK and put them in SK the next year. The problem with this is that while your child is a year older they are asked to do work at that level that they are still developmentally not ready for. I think that when you go into a meeting like that armed with the research that backs up your decisions and can articulate the reasoning that you have gone through and stand with firm resolve, you present yourself as a parent with your childs best interest in mind rather than a parent promoting delinquency.

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