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Recovering from Trauma

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My daughter and I left an abusive home environment over a year ago. She entered school this year for the first time at age five. At first she was reluctant to join in, and she stood by and watched the others. The teacher was aware of our personal situation and suggested we give my daughter a chance to blossom. By the second quarter she was improving and her teacher said she was ready for the first grade.

Since then, the teacher changed her mind -- she said my daughter's phonics skills weren't meeting her expectations. I want what is best for my daughter and we have planned to practice her reading and writing skills over the summer. We also will be moving this summer to another state. Is it a good idea to have her assessed at her next school, or go along with her teacher's recommendation?

A: Talk with your daughter's teacher and school counselor. Tell them your concerns about the trauma your daughter has experienced and witnessed. Explain that you are moving over the summer and that you would like her to have a fresh start.

Because of all of this, ask the teacher to not write "Retained in Kindergarten" on your daughter's report card. When you move, most schools will honor the placement given by the last school and your daughter may not have a chance to prove herself. Ask that the teacher note that she is "Placed in First Grade" and assure the teacher that you will work with your daughter over the summer and that you will ask that she be screened at her new school to determine the most appropriate placement for her.

When you move, go ahead and register your daughter at her new school. Request that she be screened before school starts so that she can start the year in the best place for her. Talk with the school counselor there and explain what you and your daughter have been through. The new school may decide that she should be given the benefit of the doubt and start in first grade.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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