The Menininho started his special preschool this week, after a 2 month wait! We were THRILLED to learn a few weeks ago that he had a spot and then waiting for his start date was just torture. I toured a few therapeutic preschools but none compared to the first one I saw, so it’s a huge blessing that he’s got a placement there now.
This place has a 1:1 ratio for children and aids, with no more than 5 kids in a classroom. All the kids at the preschool have an autism diagnosis or are under strong suspicion for autism. I think all were nonverbal when they arrived. Each child has their own schedule in pictures. There is a predictable routine in 15 minute segments. Some activities are individual and some are focused on fostering peer interaction. The center also employs a speech therapist, occupational (physical) therapist, and a behavioral therapist to spend time with the children and create individual plans with the parents. All the aids know sign language and are trained in various communication tactics to move the children along the path to speech.
Those who follow my Twitter stream know how excited I was to go school shopping for M’s supplies. He got a new lovey, socks, school-approved snacks, and an Elmo backpack. I was a little nervous about his first day but I’m not sure why; he doesn’t experience separation anxiety and does well in new places as long as there are toys to sort.
When we got to school, M. ran right into the classroom and started taking toys off the shelf. I touched base with his aid and then moved to the hallway to observe through their special mirror (where I can see him but he can’t see me). I was able to talk with a couple of the other parents and let me tell you, it was a huge comfort! It’s a great feeling to have another mom affirm that no, you’re not alone, her kid doesn’t talk or play with toys either. I’m not the only one to have misplaced, illogical guilt or worry about what the future holds. It’s like this mini therapy session at each pick up and drop off time! Also, I’ve loved hearing from the veteran parents about the strides their kids have made while in the school. I hope we see that kind of improvement in M. over the next few months.
While M. is in class I’ve been getting work done at the local Starbucks a few blocks away. I love having that time to myself! I grab a scone and an orange juice and read or catch up on emails.
We’re only two days in (he goes 3 days a week) but the aids have been pleased with M. thus far. He is aware of other children in the room, participates a little bit, sits still for snack time (duh! The child loves food!) and has even mimicked his aid on a couple of occasions. Still a long way to go, but definitely off to a nice start! I can’t wait to see what the next months have to bring!