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ADHD in Children Health Center

Preschool and the Special Needs Child—How to Find the School

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By Susan Schriber Orloff
WebMD Feature from “Exceptional Parent” Magazine

Although there is a lot of pressure on young children to learn to read early, write sooner, and be “more academic” younger, there is not substantial research that supports this pressured exposure as having any long-term benefits.

The child’s neurological development determines both physical and cognitive milestone achievements. So learning to write before the eye-hand development is secure can be more frustrating than fruitful.

Does that mean that preschool has no place? Absolutely not! Briefly, preschool is a social learning environment that teaches the young child how to interact with others, be patient, to take turns, and how to listen and follow directions. These are all valuable skills for succeeding not only in “real school,” but also in life.

There are also other reasons for a good preschool education—it provides a solid foundation for academic learning—the very building blocks the child will need later on. The “magic” of exploring a sand table, sensations of using finger paint, negotiating with a peer the use of a toy translate into sharing personal space, creativity, and group skills.

Finding the right early learning experience can be a challenge for both the parent and the child. It is even more challenging when the child has special needs. The desire to have the child play with typical children can be met with opposition both from administrative and parental quarters.

Most resistance, I have found, comes from lack of understanding. It thus becomes incumbent upon the parent to “educate” the head of school as to what specific accommodations will be needed, if any.

This requires some “homework” on the part of the parent to investigate which schools are willing to go the “extra step” to be inclusive. The last thing a parent wants to experience, although at times necessary, is the need to pull their child from a preschool mid-year. In an effort to help alleviate some of those potential issues, the use of a checklist is often helpful.

There are several kindergarten readiness checklists that offer a guideline for what a child should be able to accomplish when they complete preschool. The Denver Developmental Screening and others suggest that a child entering kindergarten should be able to reasonably:
• Listen to stories without interrupting
• Recognize rhyming sounds
• Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks
• Understand and respond to prepositions
• Give opposites of hot/cold/hungry/full, etc.
• Understand actions have both causes and effects
• Show understanding of general times of day
• Cut with scissors
• Trace basic shapes
• Begin to share with others
• Start to follow rules
• Be able to recognize authority/accept corrective remarks
• Manage bathroom needs
• Button shirts, pants, coats, snap, and zip up zippers
• Separate from parents without being upset
• Speak understandably
• Talk in complete sentences of five to six words
• Look at pictures and then tell stories
• Identify rhyming words
• Identify the beginning sound of some words
• Identify some alphabet letters
• Recognize some common sight words like “stop”
• Sort similar objects by color, size, and shape
• Recognize groups of one, two, three, four, and five objects
• Count to ten
• Bounce a ball
• Kick a moving ball
• Balance on one foot for 10 seconds
• Skip/Gallop/Imitate postures

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