Preschool and the Special Needs Child—How to Find the School
For the parent with a special needs child you will also want to know:
• Student to teacher ratios in each age level classroom
• School certifications
• Teacher training/education
• Curriculum assists by related support professionals, mainly occupational and speech therapies
• Are there designated “sensory areas” in the classrooms or even better, a separate sensory experience room at the school—and how can these areas be accessed and utilized if needed?
• Assistance with mealtimes/toileting as needed
• Low sensory areas for self-calming
• Guided play times for the learning of group skills
• Gross motor instruction (dance, physical education, gymnastics, etc. on site)
• Resources for consultants if needed
• Parent forums for both education and support (this is a good place to learn about additional community resources as well)
• Is the owner/director on site or is the preschool “managed” by an employee?
• Is there a system in place for parent-teacher communication?
• Are there other children with special needs in the school and are they equipped to help your child reach his/her maximum readiness levels?
Some community resources that help with decision-making could be:
• State occupational therapy associations
• State speech therapy associations
• United Way child development counselors
• Sate Independent School Associations
• Developmental pediatricians, psychologists, etc.
• Family services organizations (state and some are faith based)
• Principals of community elementary schools (where children entering kindergarten went to preschool)
• Friends (personal referrals are the best!)
Growing up is hard work. For the child with special needs, it is even harder. Preschool can help make growing up more fun, less stressful, and is a really essential and integral part of the maturation process. Helping children, irrespective of their capabilities, become more mature, excited, curious and eager learners should be the basic goal of the preschool experience.
Good luck with your personal searches—and know that there are many community resources to help you make these decisions—DO NOT hesitate to ask.
WebMD Feature from “Exceptional Parent” Magazine