I wrote yesterday about the school that J will NOT be attending. Today I will write a bit about the one he WILL be going to, and why I decided to send him. All together J receives 22 hours of in-home therapy. I am very grateful to have this in place, and am looking forward to seeing what results will come from it. However, I have had some concern about his lack of peer interaction. Before he started with EI we would regularly go to play dates, usually once or twice a week. I was also going to the gym, and J would spend an hour or so at in the child care room there three times a week. He always seemed at ease around other children, and he enjoyed himself in the child care room. After J's diagnosis we began to increase the frequency of his therapies. As his schedule began to fill up we had less and less time for play dates, and we were no longer able to make it to the gym. I have managed to squeeze in a random play date here and there, but J hasn't had any regular peer interaction. This is why I decided to enroll him in preschool. I think it will be beneficial for him to be able to socialize and spend some time around some "typical" peers. I also think he will benefit from having some time away from mommy. He has spent pretty much 24/7 with me since he was born. It may do him (and myself!) some good to have a bit of independence, I found a nice little 2 year old preschool for him to attend. They only have class twice a week - Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-10:30. It sounds like a nice way to ease him into a school environment, while giving him a change to interact with his peers. His ABA teacher will be attending with him also. She will be there to support him and to provide assistance as needed. After class we will come back home and she will try to work with him for another hour.
So yesterday was the meet and greet day at J's new preschool. All of the students attended with their parents so that everyone could meet the teachers and the kids could get a chance to check the place out. This is part of their slow transition into the preschool. Next week half of the students will attend without parents for 45min on Tuesday, and the other half on Thursday. The following Tuesday the entire class (right now 9 students) will go for one whole hour. Finally, that next Thursday the entire class will attend on their own for the whole 1.5hrs. The meet and greet was pretty informal. The children had free play for about 35min. At the end the teachers brought everyone together to sit in a circle, introduced everyone, and sang a song or two. It was nice to meet his teachers and to get a feel for the rest of his class. There seems to be a good mix of kids. J won't be 2 until October. There were 2 boys a bit younger than him, and the other children looked like they might be a couple of months older. I think the range of age and abilities will be good for him. It was also nice to see that J wasn't the only one that didn't seem ready to sit for circle time ;)
When I first called to inquire about the program back at the end of July I spoke with the director for a bit. I explained our situation and J's diagnosis, and I asked her if J's teacher would be able to attend with him. She spoke with the owner who gave the ok, and DH and I brought an in for a quick tour. The meet and greet was my first time meeting the teachers. Everyone was very nice and friendly, and J's ABA teacher was able to join us so that she could meet everyone as well. I got the feeling that one of the biggest obstacles we will have to overcome will be the preschool's teachers expectations of J. They are aware he has autism, but I am not sure they quite understand what that means. One of the teachers asked me what she should expect from him. She almost seemed a bit wary. I have a feeling that they may have a preconceived notion of what autism looks like, and may have certain worries/expectations. I explained to her that with J it means he likely won't respond to his name if called, and that he will need some extra prompting/direction during different activities. Luckily JT will be there to support him. At one point the director asked me if he was talking yet and I explained that he isn't. She then asked if I thought he'd be able to tell them his name or to name colors etc. ??? Didn't I just get finished explaining that he is NOT talking yet?? I don't want to sound totally negative here. They did seem genuinely interested in learning what they could do to help J, and I think they are very caring and will take great care of him. I think I need to do a better job of preparing myself for explaining everything to people. I am J's voice, and I need to be ready speak up for him whenever needed. He is such a great little guy and I want everyone to realize that.
So next Thursday morning I will be dropping my buddy off at school school and actually leaving the building. I think that J will do just fine, especially with JT there. How I am going to handle it remains to be seen...