Friday, February 14, 2014

Questions and concerns about special needs kindergarten

Discussion Time: My son with Autism starts full day special needs kindergarten. In some ways this scares me because I am afraid that he will pick up behaviors or fall further behind if the class is full of lower functioning children. On the other hand I am excited because I know he will not get teased for all of things that he is a little slower doing. Has anyone experienced full day special needs kindergarten? Do you have any tips that you have used to make sure your child prospered in school and didn't get left behind? (question submitted by an anonymous person)

Shannon replied: My son has thrived in 1 day a week of ECDP. He is in a class of 4 with 2 teachers & they also mix with the other classes for some of the activities. He loves it so much & it's the only time I don't have to spend ages trying to settle him in. He knows & loves the structure & routine & goes to sit down straight away to write his name. Next term he will be working on transition to Prep. He also attends 2 days a week in a small community kindergarten which he also loves.

Rhonda said: Never be afraid to have a good talk or even a cry with your teacher. Your need us there to be the very best that he can be and TRUST that the teacher works with this goal in mind too. You will feel more comfortable with the mums as they know everyone else is there with very similar goals. He will make friends with some children and even pick up a few habits but he does this because he just wants to make friends. NEEDs to make friends ! And immitation is the highest form of flattery. Also there will be children with needs there not as great as your son....Do you think you should ask that he only play with them???? This is life baby.....learning and dealing with society is probably the greatest gift u will give him! Bravo !!!!
Those who never face any adversity don't lead, they follow ....

Denise commented: My HFA daughter started kindergarten spending a partial day in her regular class room but it didn't work very well. She just couldn't stay very long and had to back to the Autism resource room after about 10-15 min. with a parapro but she would go back and go to lunch or PE with her class, sometimes were ok and some were not. First grade got worse, she couldn't even take staying in the autism room. She spent most of her day just trying to make it through without hurting herself or others. She was so far ahead academically I really don't feel she got behind but she sure didn't achieve anything either. Her problems mostly stemmed from the noises the others made (crying , coughing..etc). She just couldn't take it. So I removed her at the end of the 1st grade year. This year I've chosen to Homeschool her and we are both excited about it.

Arlette mentioned: My son with autism just finished a wonderful year of kindergarten. He spent most of the day in the special Ed room getting lots of academic attention, but he also had 1-2 hours in the mainstream classroom. His typical peers seemed to "get" that he is different and they would actually help him and look out for him. It was so sweet!

Chandra said: Hi. I am a teacher and work in an Intensive Autism Program. All the students in my class have Autism. It is nice because I can individualize their instruction, but use as much of the regular curriculum as possible. We can work on Social Skills all day long. I collaborate with the Gen Ed teachers and do as many projects as possible that they do. I also mainstream some of my students for certain subjects, and as their behavior allows. For example, many of my Kinder students went to gen Ed classes for Calendar. As they progress, I mainstream them a little more. I also want to have some gen Ed students come to my class to be peer models and to have social skills groups. My class participates in school-wide events also.
Just start an open communication with the teacher right away. Tell her/him your concerns, and keep in touch! Don't let things fester that you are worried about!

Taffie replied: My son attends a program called LEAP don't ask me what it stands for but it's a great program. As far as tips I make my son do homework every night not much maybe 30 minutes to an hour each day depending what we do. Always try to make it fun. Your child is going to pick up habits from other kids that's just a fact. My son came home one day & starting flapping his hands like some kids in his class he was only doing it to try & get attention. Unlike the other kids that can't help it. I ignored it & haven't seen him do it since. I say it's better than him coming home cussing.

Amy commented: Our son did a year of special-needs kindy, and it was terrific because of the staff. Also, small class size. Best of luck!

Ann mentioned: We ran in to this. My son isn't autistic but he has disabilities, including severe apraxia of I decided to go to school WITH him for the first few years. This was so that I could see what was going on with my own eyes and I didn't have to worry about what was going on when I wasn't there. It took a while to get this to work; frankly, a lot of the teachers didn't WANT me there. Those were, funny enough, the places that were the least suited to my son's needs. We tried three different schools before we found one that fit. And he thrived there. Additionally, the teacher understood my concerns and worked with me; she allowed me to be IN the classroom but I didn't need to hover; I frequently helped with other children, out of the site of my son but still available when the teacher needed an extra hand. When it came to a question of starting kindergarten or continuing on in the preschool, our school offered us the BEST option EVER, allowing my son to attend regular kindergarten 3 days a week, and then repeating kindergarten full-time the next year. This was PERFECT, as he was starting to pick up some not-too-pleasant behaviors from the younger kids. And again, our school allowed me (not without some grumbling) to attend class with my son until I was sure that *I* trusted his full-time aid, but also that the aid could understand enough of my son's speech that I could be reasonably sure that he would be able to get his needs met. Honestly, I was surprised MORE parents with kids didn't attend, at least long enough to find out what the classrooms are like -- because there are some people out there masquerading as preschool teachers that frankly...I wouldn't leave my DOG with. Which is not to say that there aren't some really fabulous crusaders out there, too, who are worth the air they breathe daily in gold. So...I guess my tip would be simply to GO. Watch! See what's happening with your own eyes. Because then you don't have to guess. You know what's going on, and you can go from there.

Danielle shared: We had some of the same thoughts/fears last year when our daughter started kindergarten, but she had a terrific year. Her teacher (and support staff) did an amazing job of tailoring things to suit both her strengths and weaknesses. My advice is simply to ask questions when you have them (no matter how trivial they may seem). Will you be able to visit the classroom/teacher before the year starts? One thing that made me feel more at ease about sending her was a letter describing her strengths, likes, and dislikes, etc. Samantha bloomed in ways that we couldn't have possibly imagined, and we're grateful that the appropriate setting was available for her!

Tempered replied: My son just finished his K year in a moderate/severe autism class. It was amazing. He had such a terrific year. I think regular communication with the teacher is critical. My son's teacher sent home a daily communication notebook so we could send notes back and forth. I hope your son has a wonderful year.

Robin said: My son went to special needs kindergarten and though he didn't have Autism, many of the other students did. Before he started we talked about people he knew and how they all had different personalities and behaviors. He did inevitably come home mimicking behaviors (including a tic one student had), but I would remind him that was not "his" behavior and that he was copying someone else. As a teacher I've had this conversation with other students who didn't have special needs...I remind kids "Be yourself!"

Jeannine mentioned: My son went to an autistic program for pre-k and when it was just autistic kids it worked out fine. When we moved to a smaller town he was in a pre-k program with all different types of special needs kids and it was a disaster. We started homeschooling because of his experience in that classroom. As a former special ed teacher I can tell you that you need to advocate for your child. Do not hesitate to be what is referred to as a "HMP" (High Maintenance Parent). If you need help dealing with school personnel check out your state special needs parents network. They are called many different things but you should be able to find it on line.

Elizabeth commented: I have the same concerns as my son is about to attend full day preschool in autism classroom and although he has been diagnosed with autism it is not his primary diagnosis - he has a chromosomal disorder and one of the symptoms of it is autism like behaviors. However, not all the students in the classroom have autism but most have autism like behaviors. It seems to be the best fit for him as he is not ready for the next step up classroom. We have had our IEP and we took him to meet the teacher and to see the classroom (I just asked and we arranged it). We have open house 2 days before school starts. I figure we have to give it a try. He was attending the most wonderful private preschool for over 3 years but he had to leave eventually, he couldn't be there forever. I have some supportive friends who have been this route before, even one who has a child with autism who has attended this same classroom my son is about to attend and she had many positive things to say about it. It is scary but we are going to try it. Oh and I also did what Danielle McKnight Nolan did and wrote a letter about my son to the teacher explaining him as best I could, I worked it on it for a while to be sure it was the best I could do. Find some other parents who have been this route before and seek their guidance. Good luck!

Nina felt: If the teachers and aides in your son's program are worth their salt (it takes a special kind of special Ed teacher) than your son will be met where he is at and then continue to improve. Good communication between you and his teachers and therapists are essential.
My son has had great teachers and not so great teachers along with downright awful subs for two maternity leaves.
His progress and behavior are directly correlated to how well his teacher handles classroom and also understand him as a person.
Daily communication books are great, but often forgotten in the hullabaloo of end of day chaos.
A quick phone call at the beginning or end of day or a conversation at drop off an pick up can show the staff you are serious about your sons education and helping them know your son so they can teach him.
I have been amazed at the wonderful, loving people whom I trust with my son.
Don't be afraid to communicate and accept his educators! Also don't be afraid to be vocal about your sons educational needs and fight for them if necessary!

Janelle replied: As a teacher of special education, with a focus on children with autism, I can tell you that keeping the lines of communication is important... but most importantly is for you to spend some time with your son at school. Make sure he is being mainstreamed and part of the general education process. All children learn from each other. The modeling that regular education children provide for our children with special needs is the most important factor in the child's success at school! The teachers and assistants will play an important role in ensuring that the child is not teased and is welcomed with open arms. The children I work with are integrated on the first day of school and the general education teacher and myself talk to the children about how to be nice and appreciate differences etc. Kindergarten is the best age. They are soooo accepting!!

Stephanie commented: As a parent of a child with special needs, I have had similar concerns for my own child. That means you're a good parent! Something we did to prepare was to talk to the teacher ahead of the beginning of school year. At least a week ahead of any concerns, or special needs, etc. (to avoid the 1st day overload of parents info) and you can have it arranged that you are allowed to observe for a day or two at first. I have even requested to come in and observe throughout the year to be sure his needs haven't changed or that he may have outgrown some accommodations. My child spend some time in the classroom, and then a smaller class for specific subjects. The school wanted us to consider a life skills class, for kindergarten but we visited it ahead of time during a school year and saw that it would not meet his needs, but also realized that his school teachers would need assistance in training to learn how to meet his needs. We all met in the middle (the teachers received training, and we helped create his plan) and now his teachers are much improved (they were fantastic to begin with, but not used to his extreme needs) and confident to deal with his needs. My son loves playing with his classmates in both classes and is accepted throughout the school as students say hi to him no matter where they are. Just keep the conversation open with the teacher throughout the year. And remember, just because he starts the year in one class, if it is not meeting his needs, he can be changed to a different class. Nothing is ever set in stone! Your child will grow, and learn, so his needs will change. Do what is best for him all year...of course it usually takes about two weeks for the kids to get used to the routine at the beginning of the year. Good luck and I hope he enjoys making new friends at school!

EC Autism Class added: Express your concerns to your child's teacher and support staff. As a special education teacher, it is our job to work with you and help make the most appropriate placement and instructional adaptations for your child. Don't be afraid, you are advocating for your child and that's what is most important!

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Odd Socks Mummy is very proud of Chatterbox - she has been elected to be her support units representative on the Student Representative Council.

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