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Preschool is for Every Child

by Margot F. | May 20th, 2014 | Preschool, School

file0002063197033Transitioning a child to preschool who needs extra support can seem like a daunting task, fortunately, it is worth the effort. My younger son has autism so I appreciate the challenges of enrolling a child with significant speech and behavioral issues into a community preschool. Planning early is the key to success.

Firstly, does the preschool teacher want your child in her class? Also, is the preschool board prepared to make adjustments to accommodate your child? If the preschool board or the instructor is not supportive, find another program. Interview preschools and teachers until you find the proper fit for your child. This is the foundation the build a successful preschool experience.

To accommodate a child with significant physical needs, it might be necessary to start preparation a year before the enrollment date. Is the entrance to the preschool wheelchair accessible? Can the washroom accommodate a wheelchair? Is the preschool prepared to make these renovations by the enrollment date? Will the government help pay for the cost of renovations or does the preschool have extra funds? Admittedly, in some cases, these might need to be significant adjustments, however the preschool will benefit by being able to accommodate other children in wheelchairs in the future.

The next significant task is to arrange a meeting with all the professionals involved with the child’s development. Some children might have been in early intervention or infant development programs. Other children might have individual funding to hire professionals including speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and behavioral interventionists.Regardless of how the child has been supported to date, it is important that the professionals and preschool staff discuss the best way to support the child.

If a worker needs to be hired, is there government funding to help cover the cost? Also, many children with autism are runners, is there an alarm system in place to notify staff if a door is opened? Who will be responsible for ensuring the appropriate paperwork is filled out and submitted to the correct department? Ideally, one of the professionals will act as a case manager and take care of the government administrative details.

Like typical children, it is important for children with a disability to visit the preschool several times before enrollment. Even a child who tagged along with an older sibling will benefit from experiencing the preschool on their own. Also, gradually including the child needing extra support with the typical children might make a smoother transition for everyone. The professionals assigned to the child should touch base with the preschool staff periodically and make changes when needed.

Yes, transitioning a child with a disability to a preschool program can be challenging. Fortunately, it is worth the effort because preschool is for every child. Once my son had an appropriate worker to help him, everything fell into place. His speech improved and his behavior became more manageable. Both of these changes were helpful when he started school the following year.

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