Mon 29 Jun 2009
We dodged a bullet this week. Over the years, I’ve read various articles concerning the issue of twins and multiples in school — whether they should be in the same classroom or separate, and issues with schools that have a set policy on the matter. I’ve been aware that some parents have struggled to get their families needs met, but I’ve always watched from a distance. That didn’t concern me. My kids were in a school where the principal believed in honoring the parents’ wishes when possible.
Until now. My boys were recently accepted into ”EAP” (Elementary Advanced Program for gifted and talented kids) in our school district. They would no longer be attending our neighborhood school. My girls have just finished Kindergarten, and we want to move them to the new school, too.
Logistically, it makes sense for all the kids to be at the same school. With kids in two schools, there would be a tight window for getting them all to school on time and for timely pickup after school. Besides, we feel it would be easier to manage one school’s social calendar as well as managing volunteer efforts in the classrooms.
I was about to mail in the waiver forms when it dawned on me that I needed to check if the new school had a policy for placement of twins. It did. Their practice was to separate twins. Sigh. Wait a minute. “Policy” versus “Practice” — that sounds like a distinction worth exploring.
Last night, I spent some time researching the issue and prepared a rather lengthy email to the new school principal (I had attempted to contact him by phone for several days first, with no luck). I’m very happy to report that I already received a reply and the new principal is a gem. He indicated that separating twins was their preference but they were not opposed to having them in the same classroom when it made sense. He agreed to allow the waiver for my girls into the school and that he would place them in a class together. Thank you, Mr. Principal!
We dodged a bullet. But I was amazed at some of the things I learned in researching this issue. I felt it was important to share my findings with you.
Traditionally, schools and teachers have expressed a preference for, or even have established mandatory policies regarding classroom separation of twins. A study in 1966 by Koch seemed to support the idea that separating twins encouraged them to perform better. But since that study, very little was done to challenge that notion. Some surveys were conducted about how teachers and parents felt about classroom separation of twins. But there was a startling lack of scientific study on the issue. How interesting, given that these more recent surveys showed many twin parents are opposed to separation.
Many schools districts or individual schools do not have written policies concerning separation of twins in the classroom, but instead have a commonly accepted “practice” of separating twins. It is unclear why many schools persist in separating twins as a matter of policy or practice. For several years now, psychologists and twin experts such as the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC) have recommended a flexible approach to placement of multiples in the classroom.
The 2003 study, What Effect Does Classroom Separation Have on Twins’ Behavior, Progress at School, and Reading Abilities? provides some great insights into the effect that separation has on twins. According to this study, “When compared to those not separated, those separated early had significantly more teacher-rated internalizing problems and those separated later showed more internalizing problems and lower reading scores. Monozygotic (MZ) twins showed more problems as a result of separation than dizygotic (DZ) twins. No group differences emerged for externalizing problems, ADHD or prosocial behaviors. ”
Fitting with the study results, my dizygotic (fraternal) twins were separated for one year of school, and we found it to be beneficial for them. However, my monozygotic (identical) twins would most definitely experience problems being separated from each other. Each case will be unique, and the decision to keep multiples together or to separate them should be made on a case by case basis.
The NOMOTC has compiled the following basic principles in their publication, “Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School: A Guide for Educators”:
- Schools should provide an atmosphere that respects the close nature of the multiple bond while at the same time encouraging individual abilities.
- Schools should maintain a flexible placement policy throughout the early elementary school years.
- When multiple birth children are enrolled in different classrooms at the same grade level there is a need for a consistent approach to instruction and classroom management.
- Educators should move with extreme caution when considering retention, acceleration, or designation in any one of the areas of exceptionality of one or more children in a set of multiples.
- Teachers at the primary, middle and high school levels should value parental input regarding the nature of the multiples’ relationship.
- School districts should provide staff at all grade levels with multiples related research and reading materials. Educators should seek out the latest research findings regarding the psychology of multiple birth children and incorporate these findings into their pedagogy.
- At the university level, schools of education should include research findings into the psychology of twins and higher order multiples in their curricula.
It is time that educators (teachers, principals, administrators, school psychologists) bring themselves up to speed on what is best for multiples. They are going to keep seeing more and more of them in their schools as the numbers continue to rise.
- Part 1: Twins and Multiples in School — Same Classroom or Separate?
- Part 2:Twins and Multiples in School — 10 Reasons to Place Twins Together
- Part 3: Twins and Multiples in School — 8 Reasons to Separate Twins
- Part 4: Twins and Multiples in School — How to decide between together or separate
- Part 5: Twins and Multiples in School Together or Separate — What to do if you aren’t consulted
Copyright 2009 Kathryn Whiteley – http://twinParenthood.com