Should I Delay Kindergarten for My Preemie?

Preemie parents discuss delaying the start of Kindergarten.

By Allison Martin

As their children born prematurely approach Kindergarten age, parents often wonder: "Should I delay the start of Kindergarten for my child after several years of Special Ed. Preschool?" Parents on the preemie-child mailing list, a support group for children who were born premature and are now in school have found that the answer depends on the maturity and ability of their child at that time. Here are some suggestions, based on their personal experiences.

"I decided to send Eric to the special preschool for another year. I considered his size which is in the 5th percentile and if he had’t been born premature he would not even have been considered eligible to go to Kindergarten next year anyway. Plus he was sick for the first entire year of his life." LT

"We were in the same spot a year ago. The school recommended that she stay in a pre-k program for another year… She is well adjusted and takes pride in her accomplishments. I think if she would have been in kindergarten last year, she would have been discouraged and eventually begin to dislike school. She still is delayed in fine motor and she has visual motor and perceptual problems, which all hinder her writing. But when it comes to her knowing her letters and sounds of the letters, math concepts and counting , the teacher puts her in the top half of the class. In our case, now looking back, I am glad we held her back a year." TK

"I think it would be a good idea to see exactly what your primary school has to offer then make the decision that feels right to you, I'd also ask your son's preschool teacher what they thought, but in the end it is your decision." DP

"I agree that putting your son into kindergarten is worth a try. Sometimes holding them too far back can cause problems. And you have a choice of a pre-1 next year if necessary. Jim and Jesse started kindergarten at 4 years 10 1/2 mos. It was in 3rd grade we found their disability in reading etc. They should graduate with honors this year. I guess my point is age should not be the only factor in deciding what to do. Use your knowledge of your child." PP

In summary, this is a question that is common to most parents of children born premature. The final decision is a matter of individual judgment. In our own case, we decided to hold our child back - a successful decision for us. After this recent discussion on the preemie-child list, another member made the decision to move ahead with Kindergarten. The opportunity to discuss our questions and experiences with other parents can help us to make our own decisions for our children.

Allison Martin, MPA is a biologist, web designer and mother to three children. She is the moderator of the Preemie Child support group for parents of older preemies where this discussion took place.