DS 4.5 in Primary - School wants to evaluate for ADHD??? - Mothering Forums
Montessori > DS 4.5 in Primary - School wants to evaluate for ADHD???
goin' green's Avatar goin' green 02:40 PM 12-12-2010

I'm not even sure how to get into this...long post or short post.


When DS was 2 we had him in a Montessori 3 full days a week while I worked part time.  It was far from our home, but close to where I worked.  The following year, I was home again as I just had another baby, and we chose to keep DS home with me (he had an in-home (not ours) Montessori experience available, but I think there was a bit of a personality issue between him and the teacher, he didn't like going so we nixed it).


Now this year, at 4, we started him at a new Montessori school.  He had a little trouble transitioning at first, which we fully expected, but then seemed to settle in nicely.  Then we rec'd his progress report.  It talked at length about how he can never stop moving his body, is disruptive to the other students, and has trouble settling in, etc.  We met with the teacher and agreed to meet again in a few weeks.


We met again last week and I actually went to observe (in a hidden room) the day before so I could see him in action.  And yes, he was disruptive and definitely seemed to have trouble settling in.  He honestly, in my opinion, seemed bored and like he couldn't/wasn't choosing works that interested him.  He also threw a work in the garbage that day (ugh!).  He will walk past his teachers/other students and almost get in their faces (but not in a mean/aggressive way, he's always smiling and I really think he's doing it for attention more than anything).


We met with his teacher and the same issues are continuing daily. She said I actually saw him on a "good" day.  I'm thinking that he needs more physical movement, as well as more one on one time.  There are 22 students to 2 teachers, which some of my friends seem appalled at, but I thought was pretty standard for a Montessori primary classroom.   He complains daily about going (says he doens't like school and doesn't want to go), and I'm growing concerned that he may simply be in a place that's not right for him. He's an EXTREMELY active boy -far more so than most kids his age I meet.  So, they want us to fill out a Brown ADD Scales form (which his teacher does the same) and they are thinking he's ADHD.  We are not wanting to have him evaluated by the school.  I can't help but think that at 4.5 yo, ADHD is such an easy (and I'll be honest, ridiculous) label that I think so many other things are worth exploring first.  Behavior modification (on our part, as well as his teachers), dietary changes, more gross motor activities, more time in PE (they are limited to 20 mins), etc. 


Problem is, we've toured many places in our town, and there are very few I would even consider.  This is, by far, my fave place and I love it. But growing a bit disenchanted. 


Some extra info that might be helpful...he's there 5 half-days a week.  They offer PE (BrainGym) day from 9 to 11.  He often chooses to go, and had already gone on the day I observed. 



Tigerle's Avatar Tigerle 04:33 AM 12-13-2010

I have recently posted  a thread about my four-yo who someone suggested should be evaulated for AD(H)D (it's over in the Gifted forum, of you want to check it out, there was a lot of helpful info for us. which might apply to your little one as well!).


Most posters pointed pointed out that AD(H)D shouldn't even be diagnosed before age 6. And that AD(H)D-looking behaviour could be due to a lot of reasons, which should be looked at first. In our case, it seems to be a combination of stressful environment and possibly SPD.

columbusmomma's Avatar columbusmomma 09:12 AM 12-13-2010

He does seem young for a diagnosis. My DS, age 8 has been diagnosed with ADHD and there's no doubt in my mind that he truly has this diagnosis. Of course we did classroom intervention,diet, neurofeedback, tons of behavioral charts, etc. Nothing improved his behaviors and attention though. The school is important for diagnosing adhd as well as the parent,pediatrician,psychologist, etc.  These behaviors(and I'm not saying your son has adhd)do present in the classroom and it is often the teachers who mention it first. As a first time mom to my DS, to me he was just himself. High energy, super active, etc. It's not like I was in a classroom seeing the trouble he was having(I did observe him of course). So when teachers in his pre-k class first mentioned "concerns" to me, and he was 4.5. I took it with a grain of salt. But then he moved onto kindergarten, same thing being said, same with 1st grade and he had the same teacher. New teachers when he entered 2nd grade said the same thing. So finally I became more open to getting a diagnosis and accepting it and now he has the same teachers for 3rd grade and has done well( we did start meds after 3 years and they have been a lifesaver)and loves school! I would have never been open to diagnosis or treatment at age 4.5 yrs. However I'm thankful the teachers picked up on him and let me know. That way I could start my own observations, research,etc.

blizzard_babe's Avatar blizzard_babe 07:38 PM 12-18-2010
Ok... Not a Montessori parent or teacher here, but I have some experience with Braiin Gym, and it might just be that your kiddo nneds more traditional, run-around-and-get-sweaty physical activity. I like Brain Gym and all, but some kids just need more exhausting activity, not just "refocusing."
freestylemama's Avatar freestylemama 09:49 AM 12-20-2010

My DD had a similar experience at Montessori.  We nearly pulled our hair out trying to make changes at home to be more conducive with school.  The more we tried to change things the more she rebelled and disrupted her class.  Things would get better for a while and then they just went downhill.  She hurt a little girl twice and it became really clear that she was disrupting the classroom and acting out.  We realized that it wasn't working and took her out of her school and sent her to a chaotic play based preschool.  She has had no problems at all at her new school.  She's back to being our sweet, funny kid.  


We miss the calm of the Montessori classroom and are really upset that it didn't work out.  Her teachers were lovely and the room was beautiful, but ultimately, it wasn't the right fit for our spunky, wild, creative, social, kiddo.  I think Montessori works beautifully for many children and families, but the structure can be too much for some children.  DD's M school did some circle time but was mostly focused on work.  She does so much better at her new school where there is free play time and dedicated gym or outside time twice a day.  She also does really well in a classroom where she has access to everything in the room.  She was obsessed with the work she wasn't allowed to do in Montessori.  I totally understand why much of the M room was off limits, but she had a really hard time with that and rebelled and disrupted the older children's work because she wanted to do it and was bored with the lessons she was given.  


I would try a different school before diagnosing your DS.  It really could be that he's acting out because the school isn't a good fit.          

ssh's Avatar ssh 01:24 PM 12-20-2010

Originally Posted by freestylemama View Post

 We realized that it wasn't working and took her out of her school and sent her to a chaotic play based preschool.  She has had no problems at all at her new school.  She's back to being our sweet, funny kid.  

I would try a different school before diagnosing your DS.  It really could be that he's acting out because the school isn't a good fit.          

I would also recommend a nice chaotic play based preschool.  Young children learn by playing and some 4 year olds just aren't developmentally ready for a lot of structure.  They don't diagnose ADHD at preschool ages because very active, impulsive, short attention span, can't sit still behavior is normal at those ages. It's often called being a high energy preschooler. My 5 year old DD is very high energy and at 4 had even a busier, less able to sit still temperament than she does now. The thing that helps her be able to focus on quieter activities is getting plenty of physical play time, especially outside, every day. I don't think your DS needs behavior modification, just more physical play time. They only get a half hour at my DD's play based preschool, but the class is only 2.5 hours and she gets at least 2 or 3 hours a day at home of running, climbing, jumping time. Oh and they do have three small indoor trampolines for the kids to jump on during indoor time in her class. Wanting to label a 4.5 year old ADHD for what is very normal age appropriate behavior shows a lack of knowledge of normal child development and unrealistic expectations.

Cavy's Avatar Cavy 03:16 PM 12-20-2010

I think DS2 might be ADHD.

He's very focused once he's coaxed into focusing, but he can also be absolutely manic.

He also attended a very calm Montessori nursery age 3-4... that said, it was only 10 hours/week.  Another 5 hours he did at a local "chaotic" preschool, where they could just run around like silly things, and I thought that was brilliant for him, to mix the different type of preschools up.

Good luck, OP.  I think DS is suspect ADHD, but he's 6yo and no one at the school as even tried to suggest it to me.  4yo does seem pretty young to diagnose it.

Momily's Avatar Momily 06:57 PM 12-26-2010
I have to agree that Montessori might not be the best fit. I have worked in a number of private schools and we would often get students who came to us from Montessori schools with very anxious parents who had been told their children had significant problems. Almost inevitably we'd get the kids settled and they'd be fine. Out admissions director told me she learned to simply ignore any teacher reccomendation from a. Montessori school as they were universally negative. Were in a big city so these kids were coming from a wide variety of schools.

I should note that I am sure that there were kids who thrived at the same Montessori schools but of course they didnt leave so I never taught them.
Rose-Roget's Avatar Rose-Roget 08:48 PM 12-26-2010

My ds (6, in 1st grade) has SPD and some ADHD-like behaviors resulting from it.  I feel like Montessori is the best environment for him.  He can truly learn how to focus, he has freedom of movement (instead of falling out of his chair as he did in traditional preschool and still would in traditional 1st), gets hands-on learning (good learning style for him - he doesn't do well with paper-pencil tasks).  When I made the switch to Montessori in preschool, I was so impressed with the amount of sensory input the kids got, as well as the natural concentration and attention it could foster (like carrying the trays without spilling them - or with spills and then cleaning up - very natural).  I understand play-based preschools, and I know they can get crazy.  It seems counter-intuitive for me to say this, but that setting is really the worst type for my ds.  ADHD or sensory kids don't just need to "get the energy out," as typically energetic peers may.  These kids need structure and experiences that help them learn how to learn, use their energy in functional ways, and feel successful and in control.  Our primary Montessoris had plenty of outdoor playtime, as well as walks, gardens, Kindermusik, and Tumble Bus - all great uses of energy, in addition to the brain energy and freedom of movement in the classroom.


If you read any of my other posts, you'll see that we've definitely had our challenges in the M setting, as well...but I remain convinced that traditional would have been much harder on ds's little sensory system.  He had different sorts of difficulties in traditional preschool (but I did not know anything about SPD at that point). The sensory overload in a traditional preschool longerterm would likely have resulted in a lot more problems. 


Also, I will say that 4.5 is too young to evaluate for ADHD.  What do they expect you to do - stick a 4 year old on meds to make their lives easier?  Furthermore, it's my understanding that Montessori developed the method for people with disabilities.  Kids with ADHD certainly have different learning styles and needs.  Someone was telling me that they attended a Montessori conference where the gentleman said that in a well-run M. classroom, these sorts of behaviors are not normally present.  That man had been an M. teacher for 30 years and had only met 2 children who were truly ADHD.  Others had difficulities, but when the environment met their needs, they were able to participate and learn without disrupting others.  It seems like a fair amount of the onus should be on the teachers in this situation.  What have they done to meet your child's needs?   Do the teachers have him work near them so that they can help him learn to settle?  Could the teachers provide some extra movement to go back and forth and give some functional movement if he's feeling restless?  Is there any heavy work he can perform - washing tables/windows, carrying trays/boxes of supplies/works more frequently?  Could he chew gum if that provides some sort of calming sensation?  Would a visual timer (like this at www.timetimer.com) help him learn to settle his body and concentrate for periods of time?  Other Montessorians may have more ideas but these are a few that could/have worked for my own ds. 


Introducing more interesting/stimulating works may be the key.  I know that sometimes you just have to polish a duck, but I also find that if ds is not interested in his work, he is much more likely to get off task.  At his first Montessori, he was always in trouble.  The school was split into younger/older groups because of the layout.  He was placed with the younger children when he was 4 because he seemed less mature and he had never gone through the progression of Montessori sensorial works first.  I insisted that part of the problem for his behavior was that he was unchallenged and that he would sink to the maturity level of the younger kids if that was all he saw during the day.  When the teachers finally agreed to move him in with the older children with the more academic-y works (number rods, writing, beans, color grading, science...), he settled in beautifully. 


I don't know your son, but I can speak from my own experience.  I wouldn't chalk it up to Montessori vs. play-based, necessarily.  You know your son best, and you know in which situations and under what circumstances, he is most successful.  Talk with the school about these things.  Good luck!

spedteacher30's Avatar spedteacher30 08:58 PM 12-26-2010

My almost 5 year old had a terrible time in his Montessori school. We took him to three specialists at the school's request, and when all of them said that there was nothing wrong with DS, we decided that there must be something wrong with the school. We tried to move him to a new Montessori school, had a different but still bad experience there, and ended up pulling him out and putting him into a play-based preschool/daycare for his last year before kindergarten. After the first month of learning their rules and expectations, he has been fine.

MomToKandE's Avatar MomToKandE 12:21 PM 12-28-2010

Montessori isn't the best fit for every child (saying this as the parent of 2 Montessori graduates) and not all Montessori schools are the same.  I also can't speak to the "to young to be diagnosed" issue because my dd was 8 before this even came on our radar.  The summer before 4th grade we had a private evaluation done.  We thought we were looking at a learning disability issue but we couldn't get the school system to test her.  The psychologist spent 3 days working with dd on various tests.  This was not a 5 minute diagnosis.  In the end she said that there were some mild learning problems but that dd definitely had ADHD-Inattentive type (no hyperactivity, what used to be called just ADD). 


This was a total shock to us but the more I read the more it explained a lot about dd's high needs personality since birth.  She didn't develop ADHD as an older child, it had been with her all along.  I know many people here are very anti-medication but for dd medication has been a huge help.  We tried every alternative we could get our hands on but in the end medication made the difference for her.


If you feel like the school is already biased towards a certain diagnosis it might be worth looking into a private evaluation. 

goin' green's Avatar goin' green 05:44 PM 01-04-2011

Thanks everyone for your feedback.


After days of him telling us how happy he was he didn't have school when the holiday break started, followed by days of incredibly rebellious behavior on his part right before having to return to school, we ultimately thought about it, and just ultimately came to the conclusion that it really wasn't the best fit for him.  I agree with so much of what was said - he needs more simply creative, run around and act silly physical time. 


The funny thing is that when I really think about ADD/ADHD, DS is really not this way, when he's truly interested in things.  He will build legos for over an hour, play that HABA tack toy making various shapes, do art painting for extended periods, etc.  He really can and does focus when he's truly interested and becomes engaged.  But when I observed him, that was the first thing I said to my husband - he looked so BORED.  And he told us repeatedly (when we asked him why he didn't like school) that it was because he didn't enjoy doing those works. 


So far I'm feeling like we made the right decision for him, and trying to figure out next steps.  Trying to organize a waldorf-type playgroup a few days a week, and also considering whether it's worth it to attempt another place, though our only other options here are very traditional "daycare" type places.  Which I've never wanted to send him to.  But I've come to realize in the last few months that it's not about what I think ist he right thing for him, but really is what is best for him, and what he enjoys. 

Mama Shifra's Avatar Mama Shifra 08:22 PM 01-04-2011

Not to hijack the thread, but my son was diagnosed with ADHD at age 5, so there are preschoolers who are diagnosed with ADHD.  However, what really go to us was his violence.  Because of his ADHD, he was impulsive and would hurt people, HARD.  I was afraid for my jaw, for one thing, so we did medicate him.  I am not implying, though, that this is the issue with goin' green's son.  It seems that goin' green feels that her son is just bored in school.  My experience is that the parent is right over 90% of the time (research bears that out too).  So if goin' green doesn't feel that her son belongs in that school, then she is probably right!  You are very brave to go with your gut!  Good luck in finding a good setting for your son. (By the way, if you are looking for a Waldof type craft book to find ideas for your playgroup, I really enjoy Earthways by Carol Petrash.  For a general guide to starting a playgroup, La Leche League's Playful Learning: An Alternative Approach to Preschool by Anne Engelhardt and Cheryl Sullivan is an oldie but a goodie, and will give you good ammunition and clarification on why you are starting a playgroup for your son).