So as Zac and I read over the research, researched online, thought long and hard and prayed about our decision about Samuel, these are the things we thought (let me see if I can summarize somehow):
1. "the research" basically shows higher correlations between being held back a grade and incidences of drug use later on, dropping out of high school, low self-esteem and other risks, regardless of the reasons for holding them back.
2. what it doesn't tell us exactly is if these kids might have been at risk for these behaviors regardless of them being held back or not. In other words, there is no way to know what might have happened otherwise. It shows a correlation, but not cause and effect.
3. the research also clearly indicates that one shouldn't retain a child with the hope that this alone will be the intervention to help them succeed. This, I think, is where it fails. The argument is that they may struggle anyhow, being held back won't change that, so keeping them with their same age peers is more beneficial. But, in our case, Samuel already has support in place with his IEP so we are not looking to retention as the "end-all-be-all" solution.
4. So. Our rationale for wanting to hold him back goes something like this: he is behind academically, this will give him a chance to catch up. He's been in a self-contained classroom for 2 yrs where they don't cover some of the core curriculum that the reg ed classroom gets, such as science and social studies. So he's missed a lot of that completely. This will give him a chance to be exposed to all of it and be on track again. He is small for his age. Even compared to kids a yr younger, his pediatrician assured me he will never be a "big" kid. He is socially immature and might stand out less in this regard with younger kids. He struggles A LOT with his speech. Kids don't understand him. Teachers and other adults have a hard time understanding him. This gives him another year to perhaps concentrate on his speech and social skills without the stress of being behind academically and lost in the curriculum. He also struggles with anxiety. We have felt like giving him perhaps a little edge in being even ahead academically could help him reduce his anxiety to where he can function better and participate more fully before being challenged with all new material. Also since he is small, I am hoping that as time goes on he will have less chance of being teased and bullied, or just frustrated, for his speech and social skills if he's with younger kids, rather than being a small one in the grade. Anyway.
5. He'll be going to a new school anyway. None of his classmates will be at this new school. No one will know he was held back. It's a new start. As we talked to Samuel about the possibility, his only real concern was that he wanted to have a real desk and he was afraid that if he did 1st grade again he wouldn't get one (they sit at tables right now). So, if that truly is his only concern, I think we'll be ok there.
6. As I read online somewhere, the bottom line for us really, is that a child hardly ever struggles very much for being slightly ahead. But struggling by being behind can be a much tougher struggle. Little Samuel has enough challenges, we think. He is going to have a hard time either way. So we figure it can only be beneficial to give him this time to maybe hopefully help things be a little easier in some ways.
When we met again on Tues. the school psychologist said the principal had seen things work both ways. Sometimes it really works in the child's benefit to be held back. Other times it would have been better not to. The school team and the principal both said they could see the argument for wanting to hold him back. Really, it just came down to our decision. So, we decided to do it. (They also kind of waived the rest of the required "process" for this decision since he kind of has a unique situation of already being in Special Ed. phew!!) So right now, he'll be going to the public school in the mainstream class and going to "resource" for part of the day. He is now on the list at the charter school to get a spot in 1st grade if anyone drops out (which we are hoping for with all our might).
And that's where things stand. One of the hardest decisions I've ever made and I can only hope it ends up being the best thing for him and that he won't feel bad about it somewhere along the line. That's our only concern really. Anyway. Onward we go . . . it's all we can do.