Category: Connections Corner Page 1 of 2

The Pros & Cons of Redshirting Your Kindergartners

Around the time I registered my twin girls for kindergarten, I heard about the nationwide trend of parents holding back their children from starting kindergarten to give them the advantage of increased age and maturity. Since my twins’ birthday is late July, I became especially interested in this issue. The idea of “redshirting” originated in sports, giving an additional year for athletes to become bigger and stronger, and the term is now applied to academics, where the trend is rapidly growing. An article in The New Yorker reported that in 1968, 4% of kindergarten students in America were 6 years old; by 1995, the number had grown to 9%; and in 2008, it had risen to 17%.

On the surface, redshirting makes sense, following the assumption that a 6-year-old brain is more capable than a 5-year-old brain of handling a classroom setting. Often this assumption is true, and some kids need that extra year of development. It’s when the decision is made for competitive reasons — trying to give a child an edge over other students, regardless of readiness or maturity — that it causes concern for education leaders.

Some experts consider redshirting to be “gaming the system,” since delaying entry is not an option for families who can’t afford to pay for another year of daycare or preschool when the child can legitimately attend a free public kindergarten. No doubt, the trend to hold kids back is primarily exercised by affluent parents.

REASONS FOR REDSHIRTING

The reasons parents state for redshirting vary from unpredictable (holding back a boy in hopes he’ll be taller than the girls; advancing a girl so she isn’t more physically developed than her classmates; or concern a boy won’t be able to go on dates if he can’t drive as early as his classmates) to extremely valid (a child being emotionally, academically or socially immature).

Donna Miller, of GEMS (SC) Mothers of Older Twins, has been an elementary school teacher for more than 30 years. She is now retired and often substitutes in kindergarten classes.

“The oldest kids in the class are more social, better able to separate from Mom, more focused, and more interested in learning,” said Donna, who sees “a vast difference” among the oldest and youngest children in the class. “I didn’t see as much of a split among 5th graders, but it makes a huge difference in kindergarten.”

In addition to age, gender often plays a role in maturity rates. “It could be wise to give boys especially another year to get ready. Boys tend to take a little longer to get into the idea of school and sitting in a classroom,” Donna said. Obviously, this complicates the decision for parents of boy-girl multiples.

THE COMPLICATING FACTOR OF MULTIPLES

Deven Kane of
Northwest Suburban (MI) Mothers of Multiples has triplets (two girls and a boy) who will turn 5 in mid-August and immediately start kindergarten. “The people in their preschool all communicate that they are ready to move forward with reading, mathematics, physical and social skills. Our children have participated in sports; and none of them stood out as being less physically ready than the rest of the team. Mostly, we are trusting the opinion of the professionals.”

Making the decision for two — or in Deven’s case, three — children at once isn’t easy. “The biggest concern is if one falls behind, can we really make a decision to hold the one back while allowing the others to move forward?”

Since they were toddlers, Deven realized they would be younger than their classmates, so she took steps to boost their readiness. “Team sports help kids develop maturity, learn cooperation, follow directions and learn to take turns, all of which is essential in kindergarten.” Deven believes that enrolling young kids in team and individual sports can have a much bigger impact in the long run than holding them back a year in school.

“As an educator, I had a difficult time making this decision,” Deven continued. “I have seen students who started school young and never filled in those gaps in learning. I don’t want to see my own children struggle. At the same time, parents know their children best, and we know our children’s capabilities.”

Beth McGuire of Multiples of the Midlands (SC) has twin boys in kindergarten. “They turned 6 in late September, so we missed the cut off. And I was relieved! In preschool they were some of the smaller boys in their class, and both were sensitive about it. While there are taller boys this year in kindergarten, they like that they are no longer the smallest. Parents need to look at their individual child’s needs and maturity. Kids are much more resilient than we often give them credit for being. Children are little sponges. I worried incessantly about going from the small, nurturing Montessori environment to a large, public school setting. Now I laugh when I think about those worries because my boys are doing great.”

A YEAR OF TRANSITION

A great option for children with summer and fall birthdays are “transitional kindergarten” programs offered in some states. These programs — often called Young Fives — feature a modified curriculum tailored to children who may not be ready for the challenges of regular kindergarten, or who seem ready but don’t meet the state’s age requirement. California and Michigan are two states offering this option, and it is free in some areas and tuition-based in others.

Kim Dahring of Northwest Suburban (MI) Mothers of Multiples has 5-year-old fraternal twin girls. They have a late-August birthday, and Kim enrolled them in Young Fives. “I didn’t see any disadvantage other than cost. The pros outweighed the cost exponentially. My twins will have an additional year to build skills and perhaps avoid unnecessary struggles. We believe they also may have more confidence and maturity. One year can bring a lot of growth mentally and physically. We have older daughters who were young in their classes, and we firmly feel they would have benefited from an additional year before going to college.”

Depending on a state’s specific laws, at the end of the transition year, children may be recommended for traditional kindergarten or 1st grade, depending on their readiness. And public schools in some states offer summer programs to help kids prepare before kindergarten begins.

My twin daughters are thriving in a small, private kindergarten that meets four days a week, for less than five hours a day. Our twins will begin 1st grade in public school in the fall, only two weeks after they turn 6, and others frequently question me about our decision. While I have normal concerns that most mothers feel as their children start “big kid” school, I believe they are ready for the challenge of 1st grade, despite being younger than most of their classmates.

NEW RESEARCH FINDINGS

Children who were redshirted years ago are now old enough for researchers to measure the impact of their delayed start. One study found that “while earlier studies have argued that redshirted children do better both socially and academically … more recent analyses suggest the opposite: the youngest kids, who barely make the age cutoff but are enrolled anyway, ultimately end up on top.”

At least three other studies have similar findings, including a 2008 study at Harvard University, whose researchers believe “the younger students experienced positive effects from being in a relatively more mature environment: in striving to catch up with their peers, they ended up surpassing them.” For years, Montessori and other independent schools have structured their classrooms around this premise: younger students benefit from having older peers.

It’s hard to deny that being bigger, quicker and more mature is a good thing. And many studies have supported that hypothesis, showing higher scores, better teacher evaluations and improved social skills for older students during the elementary years. But those early advantages may disappear by high school and college, where multiple studies show younger students outperform their older classmates and have higher graduation rates. These researchers agree with those in the Harvard study: if you are always bigger and smarter, you may be more likely to get bored and think that learning should come easily. If you’re relatively younger, you are constantly forced to reach for your limits. This research indicates that teaching our children to deal with and overcome obstacles can have a long-lasting effect that could serve them well throughout their lifetimes.

Kindergarten teacher Alyssa Metze is married to a twin son of Christina Metze of Multiples of the Midlands (SC). She points out there are dangers to making blanket statements that apply to all children, as researchers often do. “The decision needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. Parents must closely observe their children’s behaviors and judge their readiness as best they can. All children are different. They walk, talk, learn and do everything else differently,” said Alyssa.

Connie Christie of the Capitol Area (MI) Mothers of Multiples is mother to 25-year-old twin girls and younger singleton. Connie’s twins have an early October birthday and were older than many of their classmates. She believes being older than their classmates helped them settle into a leadership style of behavior. However, she warns if children are way ahead of their peers, they can become bored in school, which isn’t good.

Alyssa agrees it can be a delicate balance. “On one hand, you want your children to be ready for school so that they can learn the most they possibly can,” she said. “But on the other hand, you don’t want to wait too long to put them in school.”

Those of us in Generation X are often accused of sheltering our children. We need to question our motives if paving an easier path is our sole reason for redshirting. The issue of kindergarten readiness is not simple, and making the decision for multiple children adds incredible complexity. Like all issues related to parenting multiples, there is no right or wrong answer — we each need to make the best decision we can for our families, and not look back.

Connie jokes about a height spike her twins had in 5th grade that made them basketball stars, but the stardom ended quickly when their teammates grew really soon after. Connie’s advice? “Make the decision based on your children’s ability to handle school and social situations, not for your own desire for a star athlete or student. We all have our places in life; let your children have their place as well.”

REGULATIONS DIFFER BY STATE AND SCHOOL

In many states, attendance in kindergarten is optional, with compulsory attendance beginning in 1st grade. If you’re considering redshirting your child/children, be sure to check for restrictions in your state and school district. Some public elementary schools, or their principals, have strict guidelines dictating a child’s admission. For example, one South Carolina mother told me that her child was tested for kindergarten readiness and, since the child passed, the principal would not allow delayed entry for her child. Some schools simply require a meeting with the principal for parents to explain their reasoning for wanting to delay their child’s entry. Other schools allow complete parental discretion, but parents need to contact their school before they make a decision, in case any paperwork or specific requirements need to be met.

ADVICE FROM A KINDEGARTEN TEACHER

Kindergarten teacher Alyssa Metze offers advice to parents trying to make the decision about redshirting. “Pay close attention to your children’s behavior and maturity level. If they seem as though they can handle working with other children, sitting in one place for at least 25 minutes, following directions, and are ready to learn more than just the basic alphabet and numbers, then you definitely need to put your child in school no matter their age,” said Alyssa.

Alyssa explains that a child who may seem a little behind can actually benefit by starting school on time and accessing the free resources available through public schools. “If you’ve been working with your children on learning the basics, like the alphabet and numbers, and they seem to be having difficulties, consider putting them in school by the age of 5 so they can get help and interventions earlier rather than later. Difficulties and developmental delays are best caught early.”

“No matter when you decide to enroll your children in kindergarten, please prepare them for school,” Alyssa advised. “Teach them the alphabet, colors, numbers, and to count. Hold conversations with them. The more you talk together the better vocabulary your child will have. Read to them at least once a day, but more would be great. Like little sponges, children learn the most within their first 3–4 years of life, before they even enter school.”

by Sara Barr
(originally published 2014)

This article is just one of many from our bi-monthly member publication, Multiple Connections. Each full issue is posted in the Members Only section of our website. If you are a member, log in using your Members Only password to browse through other issues. If you aren’t yet a member of Multiples of America, consider joining us through a local club or as an affiliate to access our newsletters and a wealth of other resources. Learn more

Encouraging Individuality in Multiples

“Your twins are just siblings who share a birthday. Treat them as such.”

That was the information I received from a pediatrician early in my parenthood journey. And while that is certainly valid advice, I never really felt like it applied to my children. The truth is, my identical twins share a lot more than a birth date. While they don’t look the same, they do look very similar, especially to people who don’t know them well. While they are individuals, they do share many of the same interests and hobbies.

Unlike singleton siblings, they often want to be involved in the same activities and on the same sports teams. Not because they want to be with their twin, but because they just like the same things. Therefore, it becomes a little bit more difficult to foster my twins’ individuality. Some of the tried-and-true methods, like enrolling multiples in different activities, do not apply. I want to ensure that my twins realize that they are two unique individuals, while they also remain true to themselves. So, here are a few of the intentional steps I take to build their sense of self.

NOTICE POSITIVE DIFFERENCES, BUT DON’T COMPARE

It’s natural for people to look for the similarities when it comes to multiples. But all multiples have physical and personality differences, even if they are subtle. I make a habit of noticing the differences in my twins and encourage others to as well. I don’t dress my multiples alike, especially if I know they will be around new people, like at school or at a gathering with extended family. If my twins will be meeting new people, I encourage them to wear some sort of identifying marker, like a designated color. I also empower my twins to correct people when they are called by the wrong name. However, resist the urge to compare, as that can be detrimental. Model behavior that embraces the differences in your multiples, and others will follow suit.

CREATE INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCES AND SPACES

Part of being an individual is having things that are just yours, or just for you. This can be difficult when it comes to multiples. They may share everything like clothes, toys, a bedroom, and even friends. So whenever possible, I try to provide two separate experiences even if it is within the same activity. Maybe you have one birthday party, but two cakes. Or they play the same sport, but in different positions. If they share a bedroom, make sure they each have their own area to decorate and express themselves however they see fit. Allowing all multiples to create their own experiences is important.

PRIORITIZE ONE-ON-ONE TIME

Separating my twins for one-on-one time is a struggle because they really love being together. But I know how important it is for all kids to get undivided attention. Taking just one child with you while running errands is great for everyone. They get some alone time and having just one with you feels like a vacation. I also try to find time with each child where they get to control the activity. Spending time with a child doing something that they really enjoy helps build confidence and self-esteem.

With a little bit of planning, you can embrace each child’s essence and foster the things that make them who they truly are. Have conversations early and often about differences in all types of people. Read developmentally appropriate books that reinforce this message. And seek out experiences that help your child learn more about themselves. Creating a culture of individuality with your multiples is possible no matter how similar your children may be.

by Ali Dunn, guest columnist

Ali is mother to identical twins born at 28 weeks’ gestation. She is the founder of Me Two Books and the author of four children’s books: I Was a Preemie Just Like You, I Needed the NICU Just Like You, One of Two, a Twin Story about Individuality, and The Career Explorer.

This article is just one of many from our bi-monthly member publication, Multiple Connections. Each full issue is posted in the Members Only section of our website. If you are a member, log in using your Members Only password to browse through other issues. If you aren’t yet a member of Multiples of America, consider joining us through a local club or as an affiliate to access our newsletters and a wealth of other resources. Learn more

Nancy Segal’s New Book Shares the Story that Grabbed Global Headlines

“Aiden and Ethan look like an ordinary pair of fraternal twin brothers,” writes Dr. Nancy Segal in her newest book, Gay Fathers, Twin Sons. But their story, as told by Segal, is far from ordinary. Their story is one that grabbed global headlines. Their story is one that stands as an inspiration for families who fear being divided.

Aiden and Ethan, now 6 years old, are heteopaternal twins. “Unlike most fraternal twins (and non-twin siblings) who share 50 percent of their genes, on average Aiden and Ethan share only about 25 percent,” explains Segal in her newest book. Genetically equivalent to half-siblings, both boys have the same anonymous egg donor, but not the same father. Both boys were carried by a surrogate in the same pregnancy.

Their unusual story is more than genetics, though. Their story actually begins with their parents, Andrew and Elad. Andrew Banks, a citizen of the United States with dual citizenship in Canada, and Elad Dash, a citizen of Israel, first saw each other in the overseas student office of Tel Aviv University in 2008. They dated for nearly two and a half years, then Andrew finally proposed by attaching an engagement bracelet as a collar around their dog’s neck. Segal interviewed many of their friends and learned that the two men “complete each other.” They were married in Canada in 2010. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was the reason they married outside the United States.

Segal interviewed Andrew and Elad in order to tell their story firsthand. She also checked in with friends and family of the couple, gathering their memories and perspectives on Andrew and Elad’s amazing journey. The story that evolved is one of Andrew and Elad through the years, their struggles of growing up gay, one in the United States and one in Israel, and their efforts to build a life as a married couple, who then became parents of twins.

The story goes on to detail the legal proceedings that ensued when the couple went to the American Consulate in Toronto to apply for U.S. citizenship. A DNA test to determine the paternity of the twins was required, revealing news that Andrew and Elad already knew. Aiden was the biological son to Andrew, and Ethan was the biological son of Elad. That meant Aiden, as the son of a U.S. citizen, would be granted U.S. citizenship, but Ethan, who was the son of an Israeli citizen, would not. The ensuing lawsuit filed by Andrew and Elad nearly reached the U.S. Supreme Court, placing the fathers and their sons in a global spotlight along the way.

“Some names become headline news, but not because of an extraordinary accomplishment or exceptional skill,” Segal writes in the book. “This can happen unexpectedly, when a person’s life events do not align with what the law requires or what society demands.

“Without intention, some individuals leave a lasting mark on legal interpretation, social policy, and/or public awareness, easing the lives of those who come after them. Andrew Dvash-Banks is such a person,” Segal concludes. She also said that Elad’s experience and response to the challenge were equally noteworthy.

“Feeling insulted by the United States when they did not accept his son, Elad, together with Andrew, fought back …He [Elad] refused to take the easy way out, not just for his son Ethan, but for other desperate families who fear being divided.”

Gay Fathers, Twin Sons the Citizenship Case that Captured the World by Dr. Nancy Segal became available August 8. Published by Roman & Littlefield, the book is available through major book retailers.

Read a short preview of the book.

By Mary Adcock, Multiples of America President

This article is just one of many from our bi-monthly member publication, Multiple Connections. Each full issue is posted in the Members Only section of our website. If you are a member, log in using your Members Only password to browse through other issues. If you aren’t yet a member of Multiples of America, consider joining us through a local club or as an affiliate to access our newsletters and a wealth of other resources. Learn more

The Undeniable Connections Among Multiples

The connection between multiples is unique, indeed. Multiple-birth children are a rare gift, and the connections that form are as varied, and sometimes as surprising, as the stories of how they came into this world.

Studies have shown that healthy marriages, friendships and social interactions can help people live longer, healthier lives. A new study indicates this close connection and emotional support also results in twins tending to live longer lives than singletons. The occurrence of female twins who live into their early 60s may be 10 percent higher than female singletons. In addition, identical twins seem to have a greater ability for a longer life than fraternal twins, while fraternal twins have higher odds of a long life than the general population.

While psychic powers have never been scientifically proven between any two humans (including twins), there is no doubt that two or more individuals — married couples, best friends, multiples and other siblings — who have shared common experiences form a special connection. These connections range from finishing each other’s sentences to claims of sensing each other’s pain. The connection is even stronger between individuals whose connection begins in utero, strengthens throughout childhood and lasts a lifetime.

Teresa Stacchiotti of Main Line (PA) Mothers of Multiples Club has twin girls who just turned two. “My girls twins have a special connection,” Teresa said. “When they are at school and hear a baby crying they look at each other to see if it’s the other one, to make sure the other is okay! If one cries, the other tries to comfort her by rubbing her back. They bring each other their water bottles and sometimes feed each other.”

A quick poll among members of my local club, Multiples of the Midlands (SC), led to some endearing anecdotes that prove connections begin at a very young age.

Bonnie Levkoff, mother of two-year-old boys, said “Hudson waited patiently for hours in the ER with Grayson when Grayson broke his toe. He wouldn’t leave Grayson’s side until we had to.”

Amy Ruple shared another hospital story: “When my boys were six months old, Logan had to spend a few nights in the hospital for a UTI. My mom and aunt stayed at my house with his twin brother Landon while my husband Robbie and I stayed at the hospital. Even though they were only babies you could tell they truly missed each other! Landon especially missed Logan and would fuss and cry until my mom showed him a picture of Logan on her phone, which made him smile.”
Lisa Woodring challenged her twin daughter Harper to find a new friend while at vacation bible school this summer. “Harper came home the first night beaming with pride. She told me, ‘Mom, we found a new friend!’ I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was speaking of just her, not her and her brother. She sees it no other way.”

Sometimes the connections can benefit the health of our multiples. Jeannie Grover has 18-month-old boy/girl twins. “My son has breath-holding spells,” Jeannie explained. “A few months ago, he got upset and was sitting on the floor crying hard. Adults were talking to him to calm him down, but it wasn’t working. I was worried he was about to go into a spell when his twin sister walked over and babbled something to him, and he completely stopped crying. The adults were all looking at each other and wishing we knew what she said to make him stop, because it’s often not easy to pull him out of it.”

Meghan Woods, also of Multiples of the Midlands, tried putting her twins in separate cribs when they came home from the hospital. “We learned quickly that if we wanted to sleep, they needed to be in a crib together. That is where their bond began!” Meghan said. “Their bond is something I have sat and watched in awe for almost 15 years. They have done everything together — soccer, dance and the same classroom through third grade.”

“Now they are in marching band together. My son did one year alone, but his twin sister joined Color Guard to be with him. I think she missed spending time with him. As much as they are individuals, they share a togetherness. Their bond was always there. I encouraged love, taking care of each other and fairness, and it just made their bond stronger.”

Looking for ways to strengthen the bond between your multiples? “I was advised by many friends who are adult twins that the best way to keep mine close is to sometimes keep them apart,” said Talyse Burkett of Multiples of the Midlands. “My twins have always been interested and involved in separate activities, so separating them in kindergarten was a natural decision for us. We were excited to see them make friends so quickly, and also secretly pleased to see that both found the child in their class most like their twin, and that child became their best friend for the year!”

The connections between and among our multiples is the biggest reminder of the special gift we have been given (no matter how/who/when/where or by whom they were conceived), and some days our greatest task as parents is simply to stand back in awe and watch the magic as it unfolds.

by Sara Barr
(originally published 2017)

This article is just one of many from our bi-monthly member publication, Multiple Connections. Each full issue is posted in the Members Only section of our website. If you are a member, log in using your Members Only password to browse through other issues. If you aren’t yet a member of Multiples of America, consider joining us through a local club or as an affiliate to access our newsletters and a wealth of other resources. Learn more

School Placement for Three or More

Many Higher Order Multiples (HOM) parents have contacted Multiples of America over the years about a situation probably most HOM parents face: how to best place triplets, quads, etc., in classrooms and how to get the school administration on board.

The Covid 19 pandemic brought huge changes in the 2019-2020 academic year as practically overnight students and teachers (and parents) had to move to the virtual learning environment. This new academic year has presented continuing challenges, with parents needing to consider even more issues in advocating for the best educational strategy for each of their children. One of the chief concerns remains: will my multiples do better together in the same classroom, or will they have more room to grow if they are in separate classrooms?

Multiples of America now offers an updated, online edition of its resource booklet Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School: A Guide for Parents and Educators. This resource looks at the issues related to separating twins and HOMs in school settings and includes many conclusions from a variety of studies about educating multiple birth children. The booklet lays out the facts and research findings in an organized, professional way. Many families have told Multiples of America that when they have shown this book to their children’s principal, teacher or administrators, the educators were very impressed by the booklet’s information and willing to hear the parents’ reasons for a specific placement for their multiples.

As most HOM parents can probably predict, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the best classroom situation for your multiples. Consider referring to Placement’s “10 Reasons to Separate Multiples in School” and “10 Reasons NOT to Separate Multiples in School.” Those two perspectives can help parents evaluate each of their children’s academic strengths and skills, as well as each child’s social and emotional outlook.

But what if you run into resistance from your school’s administration?

Here are some words of advice for any “Gripe to Goal” effort with your kids’ school, presented by author and twin mother Pam Novotny at a Multiples of America convention workshop some years ago.

Parents of multiples need to first identify what they want for their children and need to complete the following sentences:

  • My gripe is …
  • My real concern is …
  • What I am really wishing for is …
  • Therefore my goal is …

In this case, you want flexibility on classroom placement for your triplets, quads, or more. Next, you need to prepare for discussion about the goal with the school administration:

1) Investigate school policy.  Is it in writing?  If a written policy exists, find out if it is a teacher, principal, or district-wide policy. Call the school secretary to start the research process.

2) Talk to the teachers the kids’ have had up to now about each child’s classroom experience.  What were strengths, areas that needed improving? How did each child interact with other kids and with each other?

3) Talk to your children. What are their ideas about being together and being apart?

4) Look for other information from professional researchers. Again, the Multiples of America booklet is a great guide.

5) Schedule an appointment to meet with the school administrators/teachers, whoever is in on the decision. Dress professionally (even for a virtual meeting!), bring an outline of what you want to discuss, have readily available any books or notes that support your position.

6) During the meeting, be pleasant and respectful. Tell them what you want. Stress that everyone at the meeting wants to make sure each child has the best, most productive educational experience possible. Present your concerns and suggestions; present the information that backs up your view.

7) If necessary, slow down the negotiating process by asking follow-up questions. What does the administrator fear about keeping your kids together (or separate)?  What would it take to show the administrator that the kids are doing well in a situation? What kind of flexibility can be built into the decision (for instance, letting the kids eat lunch together, having a reading class together, etc.).

8) If you reach an agreement that satisfies you, get the decision in writing. You can always write a letter thanking the administrator for meeting with you and recapping what action or changes will be taking place.

9) If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, you can give the issue some time and come back again if you feel your kids need a different classroom situation, using the same steps above.

At a Triplet Connection convention some years ago, a quad mother talked about her experiences with her kids’ school, which were about as unsatisfactory as you could get. There were issues about speech therapy and learning disabilities, as well as classroom placement. She finally told the administrator she was talking to a lawyer because she felt the school was blaming the children for being siblings, and that got the administration’s attention. I don’t know that the “ultimatum” approach is more effective, but if you feel the administration is too heavy handed and not following the spirit of the educational district, it’s always an option.

We hope you will check out Placement in the Members Only section of the Multiples of America website multiplesofamerica.org!

by Jill Heink

This article is just one of many from our bi-monthly member publication, Multiple Connections. Each full issue is posted in the Members Only section of our website. If you are a member, log in using your Members Only password to browse through other issues. If you aren’t yet a member of Multiples of America, consider joining us through a local club or as an affiliate to access our newsletters and a wealth of other resources. Learn more

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