Monday, June 11, 2012

I am one of 450 parents out of 600 whose child got rejected at Punahou for Kindergarten, so my experience is only with their Admissions process. Applying to Hawaii’s private schools is a stressful time for parents, especially for first-timers like myself. There is little information on the admissions and selection process, especially to the larger, more prestigious private schools in Honolulu like Punahou. I searched online for stories of parents’ experiences with applying to Punahou, but came up empty-handed.
I’ve decided to share my experience about the Punahou Admissions process for Kindergarten to help parents like myself who are new to all of this. I hope this blog can help you make an informed decision regarding your child's education.

Be forewarned this is my experience alone; other people might have a completely different story. I don't plan on my child attending this school, so I am not afraid of incurring the school's wrath for this blog. The reason I'm not disclosing my identity is to protect the privacy of my child. If there are others out there willing to share their stories of rejection at Punahou, please let me know and I will post them. Your posts will be anonymous unless you prefer to use a pseudonym of your choice, but no real names, please.
For those of you whose children got into Punahou, this blog is not for you. However, if you got any feedback from the Punahou admissions on how or why your child got it, I might be interested in hearing your story, as it can give us more insight on what the school is looking for in an applicant.

Parents, if you happen to know friends who applied to Punahou, talk to them. The more information you get, the easier it will be to determine if Punahou is the right fit for your child. Everybody wants to apply to Punahou because it represents money, power, status and has some of the finest facilities in Hawaii, even better than some colleges. But it is important NOT to let your ego and the "Punahou Image" get in the way of making the best decision for your child.

Most people don’t want to admit their child failed to get into Punahou, and I understand completely. It still hurts to see how brutally my child was assessed, but the goal of this blog is to spare you from the same disappointment. Once you have an idea of what this school is looking for, then perhaps it will make your decision easier. Had I known what I know now back when I was checking out schools, I would have never applied to Punahou. I could have saved myself $125.00 and a lot of time, stress and disappointment.

If you don't have time to read my entire blog (it is lengthy), then scroll down to the section "What Punahou Wants From Kindergartners" or visit my shorter blog at

My child is very bright. He started drawing at age 16 months, holding the marker correctly, indicating advanced motor skills. He was pre-writing around 20 months and already knew the alphabet, his shapes (like decagon and parallelogram) and all his colors. He was reading single words by age 2 1/2 years and books soon thereafter. He had been attending pre-school since he was 20 months old, and possessed an advanced vocabulary. Sounds like a good candidate for Punahou, right? 
My son was diagnosed as mildly autistic. He was speech-delayed and at age 3 years, 9 months, could only speak one or two-word phrases at the most. He went through the HKISS program until he aged out at 3 years, then attended a Special Education Pre-school through the Department of Education, along with his regular pre-school part-time. He has trouble staying at circle time without wandering off. He forgets to raise his hand and blurts out answers. He won't listen to instructions at times. He has pushed, bit, and hit kids on occasion. He is socially immature (about one year behind) and doesn't interact with children his own age, preferring much younger or much older children. Often he can't follow the conversation of other children; he responds with something totally unrelated. At times he has trouble focusing on tasks or conversations, unless he is extremely interested in what's being said or done. Otherwise he needs to be reminded to finish his work. Does this sound like your child?

For being such a large, wealthy school, Punahou does not accommodate children who are mildly autistic. Why I know is because I asked the Assessor who reviewed my son's test results with us after he got rejected. "Do you have students who are mildly autistic at Punahou?" I asked. Her response: "I don't know. I've never heard of any."

Lesson learned. Parents, if your child has a condition such as mild autism or Aspergers or has a learning disability or socialization problems, I would think twice about applying to Punahou. Problems mentioned in your child's IEPs or report cards will pop up during his/her assessments. They will be noticed by the Punahou assessors and count against your child. This happened with my son.

I am not an expert at what this school wants in an applicant. I gleaned most of the information  at my post-rejection conference. Each rejected applicant is invited to discuss his/her test results with one of the Assessors, and it is here when you do get an idea what this school wants. Their standards are extremely high and rigid. The impression I got is that they want Superkids with no social problems or learning disabilities. For Kindergarten entry, your child has to score in the 90-95 percentile in the individual assessment, and we're talking about 4 1/2 year-old kids here. This means your child better be going to a good pre-school with a small student-teacher ratio that actually teaches a variety of subjects, and not one of those inexpensive pre-schools that are nothing more than glorified baby-sitting services.

In my opinion, Admissions should be more upfront in what they are looking for in a Kindergarten applicant. I didn't learn until we got rejected that for the individual assessment, Punahou looks for 90-95 percentile in: VerbalNonverbal (reasoning using nonverbal means to make predictions and solve problems), Spatial (visual perception & motor coordination), Memory (visual & auditory) and Quantitative (number concepts such as simple counting and word problems). For Memory, your child is told something, then asked about it later; they are tested to recall things; how well they remember, much like reading comprehension. 

Punahou's website states they look for "above-average academic potential as indicated by individual cognitive tests administered by the school's assessment specialists", but 90-95% is way more than "above-average." Teacher recommendations have to be stellar, and reports cards very strong. Your child has to show maturity, independence, self-discipline, perfect behavior, and be able to follow directions during his/her individual assessment. For group assessment, your child needs all the aforementioned traits plus be able to positively interact with other children and be able to participate appropriately during circle time or activities. 

Your child cannot have a bad day for either assessment. Since Punahou has so many children to assess, even the smallest mistake or undesirable trait could eliminate your child. In my opinion, Punahou looks for reasons to eliminate applicants unlike other private schools; they are very black and white in their approach, so there's no room for error. Even if your child scores in the 90-95 percentile, he or she may have other flaws that knocks them out of contention.

To add to the pressure, Punahou also assesses, you, the parent, the moment  you walk through the doors of Wilcox Hall. I suggest you dress as if you are going to a job interview. 
Before you submit an application for your child, ask yourself these questions:
  • Is my 4 year-old child poised and mature for his/her age? Do they feel comfortable in the presence of a stranger (i.e.--Assessor)? Can they quickly adapt to new surroundings?
  • Can she go into a room with a stranger without crying, running out, throwing a tantrum or being afraid? Can he answer questions posed by this stranger? 
  • Does your child have learning disabilities? For example, mild autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, poor socialization skills? 
  • Can they sit for an extended period of time without losing concentration? Do they easily follow directions or do they get distracted? 
  • Do they possess self-discipline or do they have disciplinary problems (physically aggressive, quick to anger, throws tantrums)?
  • Does your child possess strong academic skills? Can they read? Write their name? Know the alphabet and count to 100? Do simple arithmetic and simple problem solving? How strong is their vocabulary? 
  • Is your child a self-starter? Or does he/she need lots or prompting to accomplish a task? Is your child independent? Or is he/she still very dependent on you?
  • Does your child make friends easily? Can he/she interact positively with children he or she have never met? Can he/she interact appropriately with adults?
  • If your child is asked a question, can he answer it directly or does he/she talk about something totally unrelated?
  • Does your child have a good memory and attention span?
  • Is your child involved in extracurricular activities? Punahou wants well-rounded applicants.
Your child's report cards or IEPs and conferences with teachers should be a clear indicator of your child's abilities. My mistake is I didn't focus enough on my child's weaknesses, nor did I realize that ASD children do not perform well with traditional cognitive tests. Naively I thought his strong academics would carry him through the assessments. For Punahou, your child has to be strong in EVERYTHING.
On Punahou's website under Admission Testing: Kindergarten: "Above-average academic potential as indicated by individual cognitive tests administered by the school's assessment specialists; a satisfactory group observation report by primary grade faculty members; a commendable report from the applicant's current school; and progress report or report card, if available."
Under Admission Decisions: "Student selection is based on academic and non-academic considerations. Admission criteria include scholastic performance, test scores, and reports of demonstrated talents and interests. Characteristics, such as initiative, independence, responsibility, self-discipline and creativity are desirable traits...Faculty and administration share the responsibility for student selection." (Italic mine). 
Punahou accepts only 150 applicants for Kindergarten, 75 boys and 75 girls. However, your chances might not be that great because, according to an article from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin dated 11/17/2000, a certain number of slots are reserved for "Priority Acceptances", according to Curtis Hagen, the former Director of Admissions. Here is the excerpt: 
"From the admissions director's point of view, there are no unimportant questions. Call us, don't rely on word of mouth," said Curtis Hagen, admissions director of Punahou School...Of the 150 kindergarten students admitted each year, about 70 are priority acceptances, he said." (Bolding mine.)
Back in 2000, this meant that approximately 70 spaces were already filled, leaving only 80 slots to contend for (40 boys and 40 girls). The amount of openings at Punahou might be smaller for applicants without connections than the advertised 150 slots, because of "Priority Acceptances." For the full article:

Punahou has an online application that is easy and straightforward. You will need to create an account, then you are set to go. You can edit and save until you are ready to submit. I would suggest you print out a draft and review it before submitting, because once submitted, you can't correct any errors. For my application, "2 1/2 years" printed with some garbage text between the whole number and the fraction, so I had to submit a hard copy to the Admissions office with corrections. I don't know if this was caused by MS Word, since I typed a portion of the application there and then cut & paste, or if it was the error of the school's website. To avoid this, print a draft first from Punahou's website to make sure all your characters print out correctly.

It is very important your application has no typos or grammatical errors. Punahou's first impression of you and your child will be this application, so take your time and fill it out carefully. Be sure to include a clear photo of your child.

It will cost you $125.00 to apply, which is not cheap. Payment can be made by credit card online. For more detailed information about the application and required documents, please visit Punahou's website at You will receive a confirmation letter and a set of labels to affix to teacher references and report cards.

Punahou tests its applicants early. The application deadline is mid October and they start testing in October through March. Our son was tested in mid-December. I was told by Admissions that they test children "at a certain age." My son was 4 years, 8 months. However, I don't know the exact minimum age.

I won't go into detail, other than when my son's Special Ed teacher found out we were applying to Punahou, she looked surprised. That should have been my first indication that my son was not Punahou material, but I was a complete newbie at this private school business. Like every parent, I wanted the best for my child. Friends had encouraged me to apply at this school because my son was so advanced academically.

My son's assessment was in December. The director at my son's private pre-school gave tips to all the parents of Kindergartners. She said it was very important to make a good first impression; that the school was assessing you the moment you and your child walked through the door. Most importantly, make sure your child got enough rest and ate a good breakfast. I wore a business suit and outfitted my son in his best aloha shirt and dress pants. We were instructed to go to Wilcox Hall in the Omidyar Neighborhood, a new complex built by Mr. eBay himself. It was very impressive. Wilcox Hall is a large, spacious building with a soothing gray and white interior. 
Warning: the acoustics in this building are superb, and every word or whisper you say can be heard in the waiting area. Be careful what you say because it could get back to the Admissions staff. Keep conversation to a minimum. 

Wilcox Hall
Interior, Wilcox Hall
Assessment Rooms are on the right.
Ever have something not go right, and try as you might, it just snowballs into more until you are left with one gigantic disaster? This happened to us during the individual assessment. 

I was extremely nervous, not only for my son, but for myself. I wanted so badly to make a good impression, and that sort of thinking was my downfall, because then I try too hard. We sat in the pictured waiting area at the end of the hallway. Another family waited in the area near the receptionist's desk. My son starting drawing pictures with the crayons and paper the school provided. He created one drawing for his Assessor, even addressing to her. There were some children's books, so I got one out and had my son read it aloud. Part of me did this to relax my son and keep him occupied. And a small, yet more devious part of me had him read in order to freak out the parents of the other applicant. Once they heard my son reading aloud, immediately they had their kid reading aloud. The battle had begun, and I was feeling pretty good about myself and my son. Being a former competitive ballroom dancer had taught me ways of subtle and not-so-subtle one-upmanship. In other words, psych out the opponent.

Don't do this. It will come back to bite you in the behind. To quote the Bible, "pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
My son gave his Assessor her drawing he made for her, and followed her into her small office, where his testing would be conducted behind closed doors. All was well. 


Waiting Area for Parents
Five minutes later, my son flew out this door and told me he wanted to go home. In an instant I knew my son's chances of getting into this school was over. I was ready to give up and go home, but I'd been raise to finish something I started, and my son would be raised to do the same. With a sinking heart, I told him he had to stay and finish his test. He then fell to the ground, whining, saying he wanted to go to Punahou. "But you are at Punahou, and you need to finish talking to Miss X." He rolled around the floor a couple more minutes before I managed to pull him up. I was utterly humiliated. Remember my little one-upmanship stunt with the other family? Well, this was my payback. They witnessed the whole thing and probably felt great because there would be absolutely no competition from my son.

We sat on this couch, calmly talking my son into going back in. Finally he stuck out his tongue at us, gave us a raspberry and marched back in. So much for a good impression with the Assessor. After he went back in, I had my own quiet little meltdown. Upset and extremely disappointed, I whispered to my husband I wanted to leave already; I felt it pointless to continue. He told me to stay put; that it wouldn't look good if I left. He was right, so I stayed put and tried to calm down.

Later my husband told me everybody heard me even though I spoke in whispers. (He's an architect and recognized the great acoustics in that building.) Lesson learned, but too late. Parents, if something goes wrong, KEEP YOUR EMOTIONS INSIDE. STAY CALM. Don't let the Admissions staff see OR hear that you're upset. Watch what you say.

Could anything get worse? I could hear my son responding to the Assessor's questions though I couldn't hear what he was saying. Trying to turn a negative into a positive, I told myself that at least he went back in on his own accord and finished the assessment. But the damage had been done.
The waiting couch near the Assessment Room

If my son's actions wasn't enough, I had to inflict more "damage" when being interviewed by the Director of Admissions. When I checked Punahou's website, there was a lovely photo of the Director of Admissions, revealing an attractive, smiling woman in bright yellow. She looks like an approachable person, I thought. But when I met her in person, I realized the photo had been taken about 30 years ago. She was definitely more mature and austere in appearance; a very formidable person indeed.

Our meeting with her did not go well. I felt like I had been summoned to the principal's office for some infraction. She was formal and aloof with us from the get-go, and I got the distinct impression she didn't like us. I'm sure she overheard my son's little meltdown, which didn't help matters. With my luck, she probably overhead mine as well, even though I spoke in whispers. I was very uncomfortable in her presence, but I tried my best to establish a good rapport. I got the strong feeling that she was wondering why we had applied to Punahou in the first place. In other words, our son didn't belong at Punahou and neither did we. She asked us if we had any questions. We asked her about the Punahou Carnival and the volunteer opportunities for parents. Parents: I would suggest you come up with 1-2 questions to show you've done your homework with this school. It will make a better impression than not having any questions at all.

Then I committed a minor faux pas, which, in Punahouland, turns into something Major. The Director mentioned something about our son's group assessment and I asked when that would be, since we hadn't been informed of the date. She gasped. "Oh no, that's not true! We did inform you of the date. If you got your individual assessment date, you got the group one as well. It was in the letter we sent you." I only remembered a letter instructing us to Wilcox Hall for the individual assessment, but not the letter with both assessment dates. So I told her we never got the earlier letter. "Oh no, that's not possible! We sent a letter out to every parent. You did receive yours," she insisted. Feeling foolish, I meekly stated we must have forgotten the date and apologized. 

The Director invited us to go on a tour of the school with the other couple who witnessed my son's meltdown. I was too embarrassed to face them, plus I wanted to be nearby my son in case he flew out the door again. We politely turned her down, which was another faux pas. She said we could go on one of the student tours during the group assessment. We nodded and agreed, stating we would be sure to sign up for one. After the interview, the Director asked us once again to go on the tour of the school and I said, "No, we want to be near our son in case he needs us."

Big mistake! Punahou expects its Kindergartners to be independent. Given that she asked us twice to go on a tour of the school, I should have realized that we should have accepted her invitation. Another strike to add to our growing list of infractions. Parents: when the Director of Admissions invites you to take a tour of the school with her, GO. Do not turn her down.

I tried to go into damage control. The Director seemed so offended we didn't remember the group assessment date (or the letter), so I was determined to get another copy of the letter she spoke of. After our interview, I went up to the receptionist and requested that another copy be sent to us, since I thought our first copy had been lost in the mail. Before entering the Assessor's office, the Director of Admissions saw me with the receptionist and glared at me. Talk about a look that could freeze a lava flow! I don't know how much of my conversation with the receptionist that she heard, but she was NOT pleased. We were TOAST.

Later I found the letter in a stack of overdue mail the post office had lost when we held our mail service during a long trip to the Mainland. Murphy's Law was having a field day with us.

Reception Desk
I felt awful. Seemingly innocent remarks and actions were construed as offensive. I had tried so hard to make a good impression, but nerves and my son's unpredictable behavior rendered me unable to do things right in Punahouland. The whole experience left me depressed for several days. We never did get our bearings during this assessment. Acceptance to Punahou was not in the cards for my little boy. We were doomed from the start.

I seriously considered not having my son go through this after our disastrous individual assessment. I felt my son's meltdown pretty much eliminated his chances, but since we had gone this far, it was best to see the process through its entirety, especially after paying $125.00. There was a small glimmer of hope that in spite of the meltdown, my son might have done really well in his assessment, so I didn't want to give up. 

We dressed him in a an off-white T-shirt and blue shorts. I later learned he was wearing Punahou colors. This was an honest-to-God coincidence; at this point I was not going to resort to subliminal tricks to score more points with the teachers or psych out opponents. I already learned my lesson.

Omidyar Building for Kindergarten and First Grade

The Cafeteria where Applicants and Parents gathered

We were among the first to arrive at the cafeteria in Omidyar Building. Some high school students greeted us and we picked up our son's name tag. The tables had paper and markers for coloring, so we sat down and created Valentines, since it was February. What I didn't expect is how a lot of the parents were sizing each other up, mentally comparing their child to others. We ran into a couple of children from my son's pre-school, so it was nice to see familiar faces, but everybody pretty much kept their distance. The Punahou alumni gathered in one area. You could tell those guys a mile off--they all wore expensive Aloha shirts and dress pants. They stood around in a small semicircle, surveying the crowd, talking amongst themselves. Maybe these douche bags fancied themselves as the Alpha Parents who knew their advantage as Alumni, but I was not intimidated. Then again, I hadn't been above resorting to intimidation tactics to psyche out my opponents, so I can't be too hard on these guys. Not all children of alumni get accepted into Punahou, so imagine how they feel when their kids gets rejected by their alma mater?

The children were divided into groups specified on their name tags. We joined our group and went to the classroom where our child would be assessed. To my delight, my son went right in, and the teacher greeted him by name. He talked excitedly to her while she smiled and listened. This was encouraging, as there were some children who were afraid to go in. One little girl was crying. I was relieved that it wasn't my son, but I felt sorry for the girl's parents, who were trying to coax her into the classroom. Been there, done that.

The parents were taken into a classroom and for a presentation by the Director of Admissions. She seemed a lot warmer and more approachable this time when she addressed the parents. We viewed a brief video on the school, followed by a Q & A. She spoke about  some students being required to take summer school if they were having problems with socialization. At this, my ears perked up and I thought that perhaps this school does consider students like my son. That gave me hope. 

She explained a lot of important information, such as how their Wait Pool works, how many slots available (75 for girls and 75 for boys for a total of 150). Although being accepted to the Wait Pool doesn't guarantee your child will get in for Kindergarten, what it does is allows you to re-apply for Grades 1 – 5 when openings become available. We were told how many applied and she was honest about the odds of getting accepted. I believe 300+ boys applied, substantially more than girls; at the time it was over 500 in all, but during our post-rejection conference, the number had increased to 600. 
We were assigned a student tour guide to give us a tour of the school. As I left, the Director complimented me on the pin I wore on my jacket. I was very happy to leave on a good note with her.

SIDEBAR: One couple brought their toddler with them and stood in the back of the room. The child was making so much noise that people in the back rows could not hear. The dense parents allowed the kid to be disruptive for 15 minutes until the Director paused and a bunch of parents (myself included) turned to glare at them. The father finally got the message and took his toddler outside. 
Note to prospective parents with younger siblings: PLAN AHEAD AND FIND A BABYSITTER ON ASSESSMENT DAYS! Don't think your little darling will be quiet during the Director's presentation, because it is well over an hour long. Your lack of consideration will be noted, not to mention the ire of the other parents who did find babysitters for their younger offspring. Admissions notifies you of your child's assessment dates way in advance, so you have no excuse in not procuring a babysitter ahead of time for younger siblings.

Afterwards, we met our child down the hill near the playground. My child was all happy and excited, jumping up and down and calling to me. I grinned and called out his name; one of the teachers smiled at us. My son was in great spirits which really lifted me. He was so animated, telling me how much he wanted to go to Punahou and how much fun he had. After our disastrous individual assessment, this was so encouraging and uplifting! I thought maybe, just maybe, our son might have a chance, though I felt the best he could do would be the Wait Pool. I told my husband, "Well, even if he doesn't make it in, at least we ended on a good note." To celebrate, we played on the playground before going on the school tour. I don't think I have ever seen such a beautiful campus, and so clean. No wonder so many Hawaii parents want their children to attend this school. I hadn't felt this happy in months and we left the campus talking excitedly about the morning's events.
One of the Playgrounds

And then we got our rejection on April 21st:
     "The Punahou Admission Committee has completed its review of applications for Kindergarten for the 2012-2013 school year. We sincerely regret to inform you that the Committee cannot offer placement for the fall. Though placement cannot be offered at this time, our records indicate that has considerable potential.
     "Should you wish to schedule a conference to discuss application and what may be appropriate for the future, we will be happy to meet with you. To schedule an appointment...."

We were disappointed, but not surprised. Along with the rejection was an invitation to talk to an Assessor about our son's test results. I wasn't looking forward to this, but I wanted to know how he did. I felt his individual assessment had pretty much eliminated him, even though it appeared he did well in the group assessment. We had applied to other schools, so it is not like we put all of our eggs in the Punahou basket. He got wait-listed at two others, accepted at one, so Punahou was his only flat-out rejection. 

The Assessor was nice and polite, perfunctorily so, but she had the unenviable task of dealing with sets of disappointed parents. She took us into the same conference room at Wilcox Hall where we had interviewed with the Director.

The results were shocking and brutal. I knew my child's individual assessment wasn't going to be the greatest, but his group assessment was even worse. The Assessor had nothing positive to say about my son, other than he enjoyed Art. She asked if we were surprised by the results, and I said no, because I knew about problems my son had in pre-school. Although he didn't have these problems every day (some were occasional), it appeared my son decided to condense all his bad traits in those two assessments. 
What really happened is his scores reflected his autism. He scored a 99 percentile in Verbal, which was amazing for a speech-delayed child, but 1% in Memory. ONE PERCENT??? He didn't even make the national average of 50%. She said he was "tangential", meaning when she asked him a question, he would respond with something unrelated, or go off on a tangent. She mentioned he ran out of the room and had a meltdown before going back in. Every little thing he did wrong did not escape their eye.

I asked for a copy of the green sheet with my son's individual assessment scores, but Punahou does not allow test papers to be copied or taken home. I was allowed to take notes, which is what I did. I tried to memorize what this document looks like, and did come up with a rough idea of the chart graphic. These are NOT my son's scores, but that of a hypothetical student.

His actual test scores did not reflect what he knew and his true abilities. But being autistic, my son can be unpredictable. He wasn't comfortable with his Assessor, so he didn't produce when it counted. Most importantly, ASD children do not perform well with standardized cognitive tests, so schools will never see their true potential.

But the bad news didn't end there. His group assessment went just as badly. According to the teacher's report, my son was touching things he was not supposed to. When the teacher told him to stop, he didn't immediately do so. He would blurt out answers during circle time instead of raising his hand. He didn't participate in Movement Class, refusing to follow any of the exercises, and he needed to hold the teacher's hand during this class. He also got into a verbal disagreement with another child during Movement Class. The girl initiated the argument, and my son responded. Other than this exchange, my son did not interact with any of the children. He needs social awareness of others. The positives? He had a "good effort with drawing" and "loved the playground." This was a far cry of what I thought had happened, given my son's happy and ebullient mood following the group assessment.

The test results were a rude awakening. My son is an only child, so I don't have points of reference that parents with multiple children have. So to me, my son was a normal, very bright child. He was "mildly" autistic, but he didn't seem "autistic" to me. (I have a niece who is severely autistic.) You want to believe so very much that your child is normal, but then the real world intervenes and tells you he's not. Educators told me my son is advanced academically, and maybe he is, but not according to Punahou. I could accept not getting into Punahou, but what was hard to swallow were these test results. The Assessor did not encourage us to reapply, and by what she said and didn't say, I got the message loud and clear that my child was not Punahou material. What happened to the "considerable potential" that was mentioned in the rejection letter? She helpfully referred us to people in the DOE, which was very kind of her, but it was also a not-so-subtle message that public school is a better fit for my son. She is right, as public schools do have services that can help him; Punahou and most private schools do not, because they are not required by law to accommodate ASD children.

I'd been told by his Special Ed teacher and other parents that his behavior was typical for a boy of his age, so I didn't think his problems were severe enough to prevent us from applying to Punahou. What I should have done was talk to his school's SSC (School Services Coordinator), because she would have informed me that my son would never perform well with a cognitive test like Punahou's; autistic children need a different type of test to measure cognition, such as a Universal Nonverbal Test. Since his group assessment, my son has made great strides and matured considerably. Now he would score much better if he were tested at Punahou, but he still would have been rejected. 

Prior to our post-rejection conference, we had been waiting in the reception area. A  mother came in with her little girl, asking where the summer school office was located. Her daughter had been accepted at Punahou, and they were putting her in summer school so that she'd be more familiar with the school come fall. While the mother was getting directions from the receptionist. her little girl stood right next to her, silent and motionless. She never moved, never said one word. Had it been me and my son, he would have been squirming, wanting to walk around and explore the lobby area. "So that's the kind of child Punahou likes," I mused. "Seen and not heard. Smart little robots who won't give the teachers any trouble."

Before all of you say I shouldn't have applied to this school and checked on schools for "kids like him", I did. Several people told me about Assets School, but Assets has changed owners and their emphasis. They accept extremely gifted children or extremely gifted children with dyslexia. I called them and asked if they accepted mildly autistic children and they said no, nor do they accept children with Aspergers. I was referred to another school, but that school accepts more severely autistic children, including low-functioning students. 

As painful as this conference was, I'm not sorry we went in. I highly recommend any parent whose child was rejected by Punahou to go in and find out why. This way, you can get a good idea of your child's strengths and weaknesses and better prepare them for Kindergarten.

Punahou's standards are extremely high for entering Kindergartners. This is why so few get accepted, as they have a reputation of high scholastic achievement to uphold. Also, inasmuch as Punahou denies this, the school is donation-driven, so children of the very wealthy have better chances of getting accepted, no matter what their scores if the parents give a sizeable donation to the school. So to balance out these wealthier but perhaps less academic students, there has to be a larger contingency of brainiacs to maintain the high GPAs and SAT scores. Money talks, and Punahou listens.

My husband's co-worker had two children at Punahou. According to this co-worker, all parents are expected to donate money to Punahou on a yearly basis in addition to paying for tuition, books and supplies. Parents are also expected to work a minimum of two 4-hour shifts at the Punahou Carnival. Most parents end up working more shifts because they enjoy helping out.

I also hope someday a large, wealthy institution like Punahou can accommodate students like my son. Right now they're missing out on a segment of bright, creative children that could really contribute to the school. The only problem is such children pose more of a challenge to the teachers, so hopefully there will be enough money and interest to hire teachers who specialize in children with learning disabilities like my son. I feel sorry for learning-challenged kids who do get accepted, because this school offers no extra support for them, should they need it. Since I first wrote this blog, my son was accepted at another fine private school and is now a member of MENSA.

Thank you for taking time out to read my blog. I hope it proved informative and that you can learn from my mistakes. Good luck in applying to the private schools and I hope your child is able to get accepted at Punahou or whichever school you want.