Dear Homeroom:

I have a concern with regard to bus pickup and drop-off points. We live on a very busy road. Vehicles often disregard the bus's flashing signal lights and continue traveling at high rates of speed. My son's pickup stop in the morning is quite convenient as it's right in front of our house.

However, the afternoon drop-off stop is across the road. Although he's been taught to always look first, he sometimes makes a mad dash across the road. My worst nightmare is that one day another vehicle will pass the bus without regard for the flashing lights or my son's life. I've noted my concern on the bus confirmation form but to no avail. Granted, these bus passers and speeders are breaking the law. However, some laws aren't enforced until after a tragedy occurs. I'd prefer that tragedy not involve my son. To whom must I address such an issue?

Vicki Robinson

Capitol Heights

As I think about your situation, my stomach is churning, much as yours must be every afternoon. It may be that a very minor change would allow the bus to let your child off in front of your house in the afternoon, which would be ideal. However, buses are running tight schedules and are responsible for multiple routes, so it may not be possible.

To find out, call 301-952-6570 and ask to speak to a supervisor. You'll need to know your child's bus number. If such a change is not possible, you need to speak with the bus driver to make sure that he or she doesn't let your son out of the bus unless the street is secured--that is, that traffic is either stopped or is far away.

And then you need to do some serious street-crossing training with your son. He needs to learn how to slowly cross in front of the stopped bus, peering around to make sure no one is passing the bus from the left while watching his right to make sure no one is approaching from there, either. Only then should he cross. His routine shouldn't vary no matter what the lure on the other side. If he is 90 percent reliable, that is not good enough, and you need to arrange for a grown-up or an older child to cross him. Depending on his age and temperament, a few days of that might be embarrassing enough that he learns to cross reliably 100 percent of the time.

Grade Placement

Dear Homeroom:

I am a member of the board of governors of a private British school in Cairo, Egypt, where our four children go to school. My daughter is 5 (born in May 1994), and she has been placed in grade one (British system). She spent the first two years of her life in an orphanage and has the mental, academic and social age of a 3-year-old. We have asked for her to be placed in reception (which is the British version of kindergarten) where she would be with 4-year-olds. The school insists that she has to be in the class with her age group, but she is not at all in step with the rest of her classmates. She already has been labeled as the "one who bothers other students in class, does not sit at the table and do her work, etc." She is trying her best, yet her recognition of the alphabet and numbers, for example, is very poor. Doing homework with her is a big chore in which her mind wanders and she cannot do the work assigned. The school's position is that she is given extra assistance, and she will work at her own pace. We are worried that she already is being labeled and that she is not enjoying school and will begin to hate it. What is your advice? Also, it is possible that we will be returning to the United States next summer. Would we be able to put her in kindergarten even though she will be 6 years old? We are very concerned about her being comfortable.

Heba F. El-Shazli


First, I just have to say how thrilled I am to get your letter--my first international one--thanks to the wonders of the Internet. I discussed your situation with an early childhood expert who advised that you make sure your child is examined by a pediatrician with experience in developmental and neurological problems and that she is also checked for allergies, which can occasionally show up as attentional problems. In addition, she should have a full psychological examination, which may turn up some auditory or visual discrimination problems, meaning that your daughter may not be able to process information in ordinary ways. In that case, she may need help learning how to learn from people who are conversant in the latest research on the brain. Before accepting the teachers' advice about keeping her in first grade, I would want to be sure that they have a more detailed plan than having her "learn at her own pace," as she slowly grows more frustrated and learns to hate school.

As you probably know, your child most likely had a tough time those first couple of years in the orphanage. Even if she was given adequate care, her brain was probably not stimulated the way it would have been with one consistent person playing peek-a-boo, singing lullabies, reading books and taking her to new places to see new things, all the while holding her so she felt secure and attached.

Those are the kinds of things--along with good nutrition, lots of exercise and plenty of regular sleep--that best prepare children's brains for a life of learning and strong personal relationships. Because she probably missed them in the first crucial years, you have to work extra hard to build the essential brain connections now. And you need some expert help. I wanted to send you to a Web site at Baylor College of Medicine,, where some exciting and important work is being done to help children overcome the effects of early childhood trauma and neglect. I found it very much geared to professionals rather than ordinary parents. Still, if you have a high tolerance for professional language, it has a lot of information that you might find useful. A less technical Web site, with lots of information and ideas for parents, is run by Auburn University at It is more general and doesn't directly address the issue of overcoming early problems. My expert also recommended a few books, including Stanley Greenspan's "The Growth of the Mind and the Endangered Origins of Intelligence," published by Addison-Wesley; Jane Healy's "Your Child's Growing Mind: A Parent's Guide to Learning and Brain Development from Birth to Adolescence," from Main Street Books; and Eric Jensen's "Teaching with the Brain in Mind," from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum.

As for enrolling your child in kindergarten when you return to the United States, that would be your prerogative as a parent, and something you should seriously consider, even though she will be the age of an ordinary first-grader.

You probably would want to speak to the principal of your elementary school about your concerns and ask for a full screening of your daughter. If testing showed that she needed special services, the school is obligated to develop an individualized education plan, which would detail whatever services she needs. Then it must provide them. You will need to learn a lot and keep on top of this issue at every stage of the process to ensure that your daughter gets the educational services she needs.

Good luck. Before closing, I wanted to tell parents of younger children who are concerned about whether their children are learning and developing at an appropriate pace that they should call one of two programs in Prince George's: for babies up to age 2 years 10 months, call the Infant and Toddler Program at 301-985-3800; for children up to kindergarten age, call Child Find at 301-952-6341.

Both programs offer screenings by people who have been trained to spot developmental problems and who can refer parents to any services their children may need. Once a child is of school age, all screening services are done through the school system and should be arranged for at the school.

Homeroom is a forum for you. Send questions, opinions and issues you would like to see discussed to Homeroom, The Washington Post, 14402 Old Mill Rd., Suite 201, Upper Marlboro, Md. 20072. The fax number is 301-952-1397. Or you can e-mail