Kindergarten Readiness by Michele Opper, Ph.D.

We all want our children be successful in school, right? Sometimes parents are faced with the difficult decision of whether to hold their children back in nursery school and send them to kindergarten one year later. How do we make these difficult decisions? What information might be useful in supporting such a decision?

What constitutes kindergarten readiness?

Most teachers agree that it is not knowing the ABCs or how to count to ten that necessarily makes a child ready for kindergarten; it is being able to sit and listen, follow directions, take care of one’s own needs (e.g., toileting, dressing, eating, etc.,), and function emotionally within the context of the classroom setting. Here are some of the skills that teachers often look for in deciding if a child is ready for kindergarten1:

· Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks

· Understand actions have both causes and effects

· Cut with scissors

· Trace basic shapes

· Begin to share with others

· Start to follow rules

· Be able to recognize authority

· Manage bathroom needs

· Button shirts, pants, coats, and zip up zippers

· Speak understandably

· Separate from parents without being upset

· Talk in complete sentences of five to six words

· Look at pictures and then tell stories

What does the research reveal on retention?

• Research suggests that children who are old enough for kindergarten but postpone enrollment for one year do not perform better than children who enter at their appropriate age, particularly if they remain in the same environment that did not foster readiness for kindergarten2

• Students who were not retained were better off academically and emotionally3

• Children who are having learning problems will not fare better by delaying kindergarten as they are delaying getting the help they need3

What is the answer to the retention question?

• There is no one solution that fits all! These decisions are made on an individual, case-by-case basis that is ultimately the parents’ choice

• Preschool and kindergarten teachers also provide valuable input regarding the child’s functioning

• Psychological and/or psychoeducational testing/screenings can furnish standardized and observational information that can aid in a parent’s decision.

Testing can offer parents more information on the following:

- The child’s functioning in the five areas: cognitive, social-emotional, language, adaptive, and motor development

- The child’s knowledge of pre-readiness skills (letters, numbers, colors, etc.,)

- The child’s understanding of phonemic awareness which along with letter naming are the two best predictors of a child’s later reading ability

If learning disabilities run in the family, specifically dyslexia, Dr. Sally Shaywitz, M.D., an renown authority on dyslexia, recommends early monitoring and testing of children at age 4 or 5 for early indicators of dyslexia. Stay tuned to my next article on dyslexia.

~Michele Opper, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in both New Jersey and New York and a licensed school psychologist as well. She also holds an advanced certificate in school psychology and a bilingual extension (Spanish) in New York. She has been practicing in the field of psychology for approximately eighteen years and recently opened up an office in Waldwick, NJ. Dr. Opper has worked with children of all ages conducting developmental evaluations, kindergarten readiness screenings, and psycho-educational assessments. She developed a niche working with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in addition to school-age children. Dr. Opper specializes in the diagnosis of learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety disorders, ADHD, and behavioral disorders, as well the identification of gifted students.


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• 3- Overcoming Dyslexia (2003) by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.