Social Worker: International Adoptees Starting School

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What steps are needed in order for my internatioanlly adopted child to start school in the U.S.?

First 2-4 Weeks: Things to do when arriving home

  • Get a health examination from an International Adoption Pediatrician.
  • Get an accurate psychosocial-educational evaluation done in their native language.
  • (In New York) New Entrant Chapter 53 Screening arranged by public school staff.

Determining School Readiness: Are They Ready To Start School?

  • Cognitive Readiness - ability to learn skills and be available for learning.
  • Social Readiness - capacity to function socially and participate cooperatively with peers.

The Right Academic Placement: What Grade Should They Be In?

Food For Thought:
  • Kindergarten is not a mandatory grade in New York.
  • There are no legal rules, but here usually 6 years old = first grade.
  • Even if their records say they are on grade level, doesn’t = the same grade level here.
  • Their birth date may not be accurate!
Options:
  • Delay entry into kindergarten or place in a grade level back by one year.
  • Place in an inclusion/ transitional class if available.
  • Place in age appropriate grade.
Rule Of Thumb:
  • For most school-age students, placing back one year is the more common solution.
  • Match your child’s actual age and cognitive and social functioning, with requirements for a particular grade = the right placement.
  • One year won’t ruin their life, but rather provide less academic and social stress now!
  • It’s more important to have a positive school experience now, which is a pre-requisite for long-term school success!

What To Expect

Keys to School Success:

  • Provide structure and predictable routines at home and school.
  • ESL/LEP is a necessary academic K-12 program essential for newly arrived children.
  • Share adoption information carefully, sometimes ‘less is more’, it’s their story to tell.
  • Basic facts about orphanage life are sufficient.
  • Model for teachers and encourage appropriate, positive adoption language.
  • Give teachers ideas on how to broaden school assignments/projects.

School Problems 3-5 years Old and Beyond?

What To Do:

  • Evaluate performance and concerns based on functioning since arriving home.
  • Consider acculturation, language acquisition, health and neurological problems, and length of time home before you question if your child has ADHD, anxiety, poor attachment or special education issues.

Red Flag:

  • If functioning is more than 2-3 years below chronological age or child has specific identifiable disabilities since arriving or red flags from their records, don’t wait, your child may need special education, psychological intervention and/or medical services.
  • If services seem needed, a thorough specialized evaluation should be completed.
  • Contact your local School District’s Special Education Coordinator to request testing.
  • Therapeutic interventions beyond the scope of the school for problems such as ADHD, anxiety and attachment contact an International Adoption Pediatrician for guidance.
  • Early intervention increases the likelihood of a positive outcome!

by Leslie Zindulka, LCSW-R

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Disclaimer

The information and advice provided is intended to be general information, NOT as advice on how to deal with a particular child's situation and or problem. If your child has a specific problem you need to ask your pediatrician about it - only after a careful history and physical exam can a medical diagnosis and/or treatment plan be made. This Web site does not constitute a physician-patient relationship.

This material has been provided by AdoptionDoctors.com, an innovative adoption medicine private practice and educational service, dedicated to helping parents and adoption agencies with the complex pre-adoption medical issues of internationally adopted children. All medical interactions are performed via, e-mail, express mail, telephone, and fax. There is no need to make a live appointment or travel outside of your hometown. For more information, visit AdoptionDoctors.com or call 631-499-4114.

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