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4 year old with problems at school
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4 year old with problems at school

I have a four year old son who started JK this past fall.  He turned 4 in August before school started which makes him one of the youngest in the class.
Academically he seems to be doing well and behaviorally and socially he was ok until January of 2003.

His teacher informs me that he can become quite aggressive with the other children, spitting, hitting, pushing, not all the time but at least a few times per week.

He also has problems with listening and following instructions at times, sometimes won't dress/undress quickly, at times doesn't want to sit quietly for story time, to do his work quietly or sit for "circle time", he calls out and disrupts the class sometimes as well. His behavior seems to worsen when he has to do schoolwork that requires paying attention and/or concentrating. He requires alot of individual attention to stay focused on a task.

We have noticed that his behavior worsens as the day progresses.

He shows none of this behavior at home and it feels like he is a completely different child at school.  He goes to school happy and when I pick him up he is usually unhappy, angry, argumentative or a combination of any of these.

We have had his vision checked and the optometrist says he has some serious vision problems which could be contributing to some of his troubles.  We are waiting to see a vision specialist to decide on treatment.

Is this behavior normal or does it signify ADD or another disorder?  Any advice is appreciated.

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No, I wouldn't regard the behavior as normal, nor would I suggest that it is typical of any particular disorder. Children of this age become depleted as the day goes on, and with some children their impulse control weakens as they become depleted. It may be that he is not quite ready for the length of school day he's experiencing. It could be that he is displaying some signs of ADHD, though it's premature to assume that. My sense is that he's displaying signs of developmental/emotional immaturity more than anything.
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I have been a pre-k and kindergarten teacher for about 10 years.  If everything is normal at home, I would look at what his school day is like.  Children this age are active learners.  They need to be spending most of the day in active "learning center" type activities such as blocks, art, pretend play, etc.  Worksheet type activities should be VERY minimal.  Children this age should not be expected to sit still and listen in whole group lessons for more than about 20 minutes.  It may be that the school environment is not developmentally appropriate.  Sitting still and being quiet is EXHAUSTING for preschool children.  It is also not the way they learn best.  Frustrated, tired children quickly begin to act out and have problems.
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My nine year old was also placed in preschool earlier than my other two children before him.  I wish I had waited as I am doing now with my daughter.  Not that I am saying all children are the same but he lacks alot of maturity that the other peers in his class have.  His grades are lower than the other childrens, and he is constantly trying to make people like him by clowning around (which usually leads to trouble).  I don't know if it will be any better with my daughter, for she will trod off to school herself this upcoming year, but I guess my "experiment" may tell.
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