Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Little Innie

Oddly enough, I'm not going to talk about my belly button.

Instead, I want to blog about Conor's adjustment to his new room in daycare. It's a much bigger, much more exciting room with lots of toys and lots of noise and kids. It's very stimulating and we think it would fun to hang out there and play for the day. However, Conor has not adjusted to it as well as the teachers would like.

After a few weeks, they told us that he preferred playing by himself or reading a book instead of playing with the other kids. Then they told us that they were concerned about his attention span because he didn't like to spend a lot of time doing the circle activity. I questioned any problems with his attention span (he's always been able to focus and do whatever he wants for a long period of time). I suggested that it may be just a little too stimulating for him. I also was concerned a bit that he wasn't playing with the other kids. (Isn't that every parent's fear?) However, I think I let my concern ramp up their concern.

On Weds, we found out that during the regular teacher/specialist meetings, they alerted the inclusion specialist that they were concerned about Conor's participation in the class. The teacher told me that although Conor is receptive to other children approaching him and wanting to play, he does not initiate interaction with other children. Also, they felt he should be more active in the circle group. He hasn't seen a child that reticent in the 7 years he's been teaching. (That scared me a bit)

Then he pointed out that just that day Conor had taken some toys into circle time and was poking another child with them. They had asked him to sit outside the group for a few minutes until he was able to come back in.

Without missing a beat, I said "It looks like he was initiating interaction right there, wasn't he?"

The teacher looked slyly at me and pointed out the difference between "appropriate and inappropriate initiation."

I'm just saying.

The inclusion specialist wasn't concerned at all and when I asked if we should try to schedule more playdates, she said No. Just keep reading to him, playing with him and loving him. Not too hard. But the teachers seem more concerned.

Here's the pushback part. Conor does not have any of the signs for Asperger's Syndrome. The only thing that is happening is that he appears to be a little slow to warming up to this new classroom.

Since I know his father pretty well, I'm voting that our little guy is a bit more introverted than the average bear. Introversion is not shyness. Shyness involves a social anxiety that Conor does not have. Introversion, on the other hand, has to do with where one gets one's energy.

Here's a question for you: You have a completely free day with no obligations. What would you like to do?

No seriously. Think for a second, what would you do on your free day?


If your fantasy free day involves going out with friends and doing things with others, you are likely to be an extrovert: you get your energy from stimulation outside of yourself. I am an extrovert. People pump me up.

If your fantasy free day involved reading a book at home or doing some other thing alone, then you are likely to be an introvert: You get your energy from inside yourself. You likely have a rich inner life. A lot of external activity and stimulation can be overwhelming and tiring. Introverts often need to be alone to recharge themselves. Dave is an introvert.

Introversion/extroversion has a strong genetic component and does not have much to do with the environment in which one is raised. It is such a fundamental part of people's lives because introverts' and extroverts' brains are wired differently. It's a fundamental part of how people want and need to process the information around them.

So I think Conor is an introvert, or "innie" as they are sometimes called. And introverts function differently in classrooms than extroverts do. (And of course, the bias is for outies and not innies). They don't like group activities as much and they need time away from everyone else to process the information they are learning.

This sounds a lot like the "problems" Conor is having in school. The good news is that innies will eventually start participating like everyone else after a few more weeks/months in the classroom. But it does take them longer than average. And I don't want to walk into the classroom and say "YOU'RE WRONG! HE'S JUST AN INTROVERT!! BACK OFF!" Actually, I DO want to do that, but I'm not going to. I do want for Conor to develop more social skills, like I would want all toddler kids to do so. I just want there to be no pressure on him as he does so. And they just let him warm up at his own pace.

That said, I do have a fantasy of saying to his teachers:

Maybe the circle activity is boring? Huh? Have you thought about that? Picking your favorite colors? Conor's been doing that at least since his ((brilliant, genius, friendly)) cousin Carter* came to visit last Thanksgiving. And you're going to TEACH him that his parent's have their own names and then get him to learn his address? PUH-lease!! He not only knows HIS own address but he knows his friend Ollie's address!! MAYBE he doesn't participate in this group because it's BORING and he doesn't want to do STUPID THINGS that he already knows how to do. And maybe the other kids? Do you think they might be boring too? Huh???? Maybe our son is just TOO SMART to identify colors in a group. What about THAT!

So, ummm, yeah. I won't be saying that. It does come off a wee bit more defensive than I'd like. And I don't think the issue is as much our-son-is-too-smart-and-is-bored as it is our-son-is-overwhelmed-by-all-this-kid-noise-and-craziness. Introversion is not a Bad Thing. But it is likely to present some challenges in some environments. I think we're going to have to educate the teachers about it when they worry that Conor is just following along.

So there. *I'm trying to find Carter's personal web site, and I can't! He's one of the main reasons we are not going to argue Conor is so smart for his age. The second one is Ollie. Conor's not bored in that group. He's overwhelmed. I've seen his father do the same thing.


Carroll said...

"I think we're going to have to educate the teachers"

Oh, Anita (sigh). This should SO not have to be the way it works! D*mmit! (sorry, but this peeves me beyond belief) Kids "bloom" when they are ready. Teachers, of any stripe, should already know this!! Classrooms should have provisions for all levels of kids' readiness, and there should not be one single second of judgment or causing parents to panic about their child's future when a child like your beloved and adorable (and coping pretty darn well, I would say from what you've told us!) Conor comes along. Mind you, I used the word "should" up there something like four times, so who's being the least bit judgmental here, eh? (SIGH!) But really. Your instincts sound totally right on the money to me, Anita. I had an introverted first born son, and fortunately found the ideal setting for him to be nururted and cherished until he was good and ready to bust out of his shell and wow the world. Thank goodness the teachers knew enough to reassure *me* (and him) that he would be just fine, because sure as heck I didn't know as much as you do about child psychology at that point and there's no way I could possibly have tackled the task of educating *them*!

Hang in there, Kiddo. And trust your instincts. No one knows your child as well as you do :-)

He'll be just fine!

april said...

Anita, it's funny that you mention Asperger's syndrome, because I just read about it the other day. From the limited exposure I've had to Conor, I would say def not! Introvert, maybe. Socially inept or unable to empathize with others/interact with others, def not! He seems like he's a little timid in welcoming someone new, but once he makes a decision that you're ok, he'd be totally involved. I, like you, would think that it is an issue of boredom with the activity - he seems to want to learn higher level things. Extravert & Introvert have not been very stable conditions in my life - I was much more extraverted when I was younger, but as I've gotten older I've become more and more introverted. So, I say, tell them to give him the decision of group activity before they say he prefers to be alone. Their methods are flawed. ;)

Piratewench said...

Max doesn't do circle time. No way, no how. Even though he's not in preschool, we've done the "smart start" programs (quasi-preschool, mommy & me environment) and gymboree stuff and he's just not interested. Good for him. What kind of knuckle-head would have a bunch of little kids sitting around in a circle like some kind of a focus group?
Have you ever read the book "Raising Cain?" I thought it was great. The author talks about the emotional world of boys and how tragic it is when normal boy behavior is confused for some kind of sub-performance. That book was a real scary eye opener for me.
So good for Conor! His interest in books is going to take him a long way!!

Elizabeth said...

I think you're absolutely right, and I vote with Conor. I don't like to talk to new people, and I don't like group activities, unless it's a small intimate gathering with companions of my chosing. I didn't realize that being an introvert was influenced so strongly by genetics; it's interesting that like my brother Dave, I am clearly an introvert. BTW you can see more of Carter at

-Carter's Mommy/Conor's Aunt Lizzy

Rachel said...

I think Conor sounds age appropriate. If I remember correctly he is around age 3, not all 3 year olds are interested in playing with others. Many are really not interested in sitting and listening to someone else talk.

My mom has owned a daycare for 16 years and I have seen some 3 year olds who always play with others and some who don't. I don't think there is such thing as a "normal" 3 year old.

Conor is probably introverted like his dad. Don't let the teachers give you a complex about your son. Lots of 3 year olds are shy!

Equipoise said...

Ok, so I think you just hit the nail square on the head for me. I know this post is about Conor, but I think he and I share this introverted nature. Not only that, but I think you also identified why my husband and I get frustrated with each other when he wants to go out and all I want to do is sit home and relax. So, thanks! I might want to quote you in a post of my own after I do some research, would that be ok?

Cary said...

My son just turned 4. He has been attending the same montessori since 2 and has been in the same class with a handful of kids. It wasn't until mid-summer this year that he started playing with other kids. He just wasn't interested. Then one day, boom, he and Arbor both noticed each other and became friends.

And circle time? Jed participates at times in circle time however he tends to get easily distracted or something. He isn't the one sitting quietly in the circle singing along. No, he is the the one flopped on the floor or leaning on a teacher. He is singing and participating during this time but just not in good circle time manner. Thankfully he has wonderful teachers. If he gets to be a little too much, one of the teachers will take him out in the hall and they do some compression and calming exercises such as pressing on the wall or taking a walk.

I agree with not being on the defensive but definitely keep the communication channels open and keep an eye out in case they try to help him more than necessary (i.e. force) to move into these activities before he is ready. As you know, pushing an introverted person does not help. Given enough time, Conor will initiate play with others when he is ready.

Anonymous said...

Introverts make great writers: novelists, poets, screenwriters.

They are the people who observe the rest of the boisterous cacaphony of silliness that comprises a large segment of human society.

They draw conclusions.

Be afraid.

Be very afraid. :):):)


niobe said...

Looks like I'm introverted. And shy. And hostile. Good thing I'm not in daycare.

mandy said...

I'm an off-the-charts introvert, so I know of which you speak. I agree wholeheartedly that the bias is in extroverts' favor in this society, esp. in relation to children. I was also shy. I think the daycare is overreacting. From everything you have described over the years, Conor is a perfectly well-adjusted child. Does he seem happy? I think you have mentioned before that this school does a lot of assessments and has a lot of different professionals, which is wonderful, but maybe they are overdoing it a bit in this case. What behavior are they looking for? And I don't think 7 years of teaching qualifies that teacher to make any generalizations; 7 years is not that long. I think Conor is doing what he needs to do to cope with the situation. He'll be fine.