- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2002

Multiples inhabit the same space for the first nine months of life. Should they share the four walls of a classroom for the next 18 years?

This question requires special consideration because the answers will impact the bond and sometimes the academic performance of multiples, says Mary Adcock, a Kansas educator and executive vice president of the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Club (NOMOTC).

"Identical twins especially seem to have strong multiple bonds, with the early primary grades being a time when many seem to benefit both academically and socially from being placed together," she says. "However, there is no universal answer. Each set or higher-order multiples is unique. Parents are generally an educator's best resource in making placement decisions."

Debbie Brennan of Manassas, a mother of six, agrees that there is no standard solution. Mrs. Brennan's brood includes two sets of twins 14-year-old Patrick and Matthew and 10-year-old Katelyn and T.J.

Her twins enjoy being part of a pair, she says, but "in school, on the other hand, it can be difficult."

"School systems want to automatically separate twins, for the most part," Mrs. Brennan says. "Once the system separated them, I never revisited the issue, and I let them stay separated. In retrospect, I would have kept them together for first grade, too, because it's a big transition going from half-day kindergarten to all-day first grade and being separated."

Actually, at the close of the last school year, her younger set then in the fourth grade told her they wanted to be in the same fifth-grade class.

"I repeated it to the principal," Mrs. Brennan says. "She met with me, and she met with the kids. She said absolutely not, that they would walk all over the teacher. [Administrators] also were concerned about whether the kids would have problems if they are not academically on the same level. After speaking to their fourth-grade teachers, [the principal] decided against putting them together. I did not fight it, and I more or less think that it was the right decision."

Mrs. Brennan's older set of twins had a tough time last year in middle school sharing some of the same teachers, she says.

"If the teachers have a problem with one, they automatically apply that to the other one. They transfer the characteristic or the personality, and it's not fair. One told one of the boys, 'I had enough of your brother earlier today, and if you open your mouth, you're outta here.'"

This year as high school freshmen, she says, the boys have not been assigned to any of the same teachers.

Although there is no substantial evidence to indicate that multiples must be placed in separate classrooms to grow and develop as individuals, Mrs. Adcock says, the NOMOTC offers some suggestions to help parents better understand the issues.

Reasons to separate multiples, according to the NOMOTC, include:

•Constant "togetherness" is hindering the development of social skills in one or both.

•Insensitive comparisons have led to feelings of inadequacy in one twin.

•The twins form a "power unit," causing disruptive behavior.

•Twins exploit the twinship to cheat or play tricks.

•One twin appears to resent the lack of privacy resulting from sharing a classroom.

•In opposite-sex pairs, the female multiple is overprotective or "mothering" a male co-multiple.

•In skill-grouped classrooms, the abilities of one multiple might be far above those of his co-multiple's.

•The multiples want to separate.

The organization also cites reasons to keep multiples together in the classroom:

•Major emotional upheavals have occurred in the family, such as death, divorce or a move.

•The children are receiving unequal education because two teachers are employing different methods of teaching.

•The multiples have met educational goals successfully while in the same classroom in the past, and they want to continue to remain together.

Twinline, a California-based nonprofit organization for the study and support of multiples, makes four suggestions regarding school placement:

•Do not separate twins who want to be together. Forced separation can damage self-esteem, inhibit language development and delay learning.

•Do not automatically separate twins in their first school year. Such a separation adds to the stress of starting school and may increase the twins' need to be together.

•Allow twins as much independence as they are ready to handle. Twins flourish when allowed to separate on their own timetable.

•Encourage twins to choose separate classes as they gain confidence in the school situation.

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