Should I Hold My Child Back?

When a child has a rough school year, some parents consider holding their child back a grade. Their child’s grades are suffering and the gap between him and his peers grows ever larger. Repeating a grade is known as “retention” or “non-promotion.” The idea is to provide the child with another chance at success. Parents reason that their child will be another year older, more mature, and familiarity with the teacher will help their child be successful a second time around. Schools may recommend retention as the solution for low academic performance or social/behavioral concerns. Is retention a good idea?


For students with dyslexia, retention is NOT the solution.


Reason #1

Academic struggles are not usually caused by age or lack of maturity. While parents and educators sometimes talk about “late bloomers”, students with dyslexia need immediate help, not a “wait and see” approach.


Reason #2

There is usually a mismatch between how students with dyslexia learn and how they are taught in school. Students with dyslexia CAN learn to read and spell; they just need to be taught a certain way. A student with dyslexia needs intense instruction in an Orton-Gillingham based program.


Reason #3

If the underlying issues are not addressed, the child’s academic problems will resume once the grade has been repeated. For example, if a child repeats Kindergarten, it stands to reason that he may do better the second time. But what will happen when he is promoted to first grade? He is being set up for academic failure.

Susan Barton, developer of the Barton Reading and Spelling System, says,

“Simple retention…is not a gift of an extra year, because it doesn’t fix anything.”


Reason #4

Retention has serious emotional effects. Students who are retained are more likely to be bullied and suffer from emotional problems. Retention is the most powerful predictor of dropping out of high school according to the National Association of School Psychologists.



If your child’s school mentions retention, it’s time to come up with a different plan. Watch this video from Susan Barton. Figure out the underlying reason your child is struggling in school. Consider testing for dyslexia with a psychologist. Hire a private tutor who is skilled in using an Orton-Gillingham based program, and have your child tutored with intensity.

Consider homeschooling your child and taking him out of the graded system altogether. Homeschooling allows you to teach at your child’s point of need. Is your third grader gifted at math? Let him be challenged by fourth or fifth grade concepts. Is your daughter interested in writing? Provide her with a course on writing stories. Private tutoring for dyslexia can complement your home learning plan.

In summary, retention will not fix your child’s academic struggles. Do not let yourself be pressured into repeating a grade. It won’t work.

NOTE: If you have already held your child back a grade, follow the same steps outlined above. Figure out the underlying reason for your child’s academic struggles, make a plan, and go forward.

Are you ready to learn about online tutoring for dyslexia? We’re happy to help! Contact Nashville Dyslexia Center.