International Adoptees Starting School

International Adoptees Starting School
What steps are needed in order for my internatioanlly adopted child to start school in the U.S.?
First 2-4 Weeks: Things to do when arriving home
* Get a health examination from an International Adoption Pediatrician.
* Get an accurate psychosocial-educational evaluation done in their native language.
* (In New York) New Entrant Chapter 53 Screening arranged by public school staff.
Determining School Readiness: Are They Ready To Start School?
* Cognitive Readiness – ability to learn skills and be available for learning.
* Social Readiness – capacity to function socially and participate cooperatively with peers.
The Right Academic Placement: What Grade Should They Be In?
Food For Thought:
* Kindergarten is not a mandatory grade in New York.
* There are no legal rules, but here usually 6 years old = first grade.
* Even if their records say they are on grade level, doesn’t = the same grade level here.
* Their birth date may not be accurate!
* Delay entry into kindergarten or place in a grade level back by one year.
* Place in an inclusion/ transitional class if available.
* Place in age appropriate grade.
Rule Of Thumb:
* For most school-age students, placing back one year is the more common solution.
* Match your child’s actual age and cognitive and social functioning, with requirements for a particular grade = the right placement.
* One year won’t ruin their life, but rather provide less academic and social stress now!
* It’s more important to have a positive school experience now, which is a pre-requisite for long-term school success!
What To Expect
Keys to School Success:
* Provide structure and predictable routines at home and school.
* ESL/LEP is a necessary academic K-12 program essential for newly arrived children.
* Share adoption information carefully, sometimes ‘less is more’, it’s their story to tell.
* Basic facts about orphanage life are sufficient.
* Model for teachers and encourage appropriate, positive adoption language.
* Give teachers ideas on how to broaden school assignments/projects.
School Problems 3-5 years Old and Beyond?
What To Do:
* Evaluate performance and concerns based on functioning since arriving home.
* Consider acculturation, language acquisition, health and neurological problems, and length of time home before you question if your child has ADHD, anxiety, poor attachment or special education issues.
Red Flag:
* If functioning is more than 2-3 years below chronological age or child has specific identifiable disabilities since arriving or red flags from their records, don’t wait, your child may need special education, psychological intervention and/or medical services.
* If services seem needed, a thorough specialized evaluation should be completed.
* Contact your local School District’s Special Education Coordinator to request testing.
* Therapeutic interventions beyond the scope of the school for problems such as ADHD, anxiety and attachment contact an International Adoption Pediatrician for guidance.
* Early intervention increases the likelihood of a positive outcome!
By Leslie Zindulka LCSW-R of and
Visit Leslie on the web at