Today was A's first day of preschool. Not the first day of preschool ever--she has been at the school for the past two years--but the first day this year. She is now in her last year of preschool....next year she'll go to a district-run pre-K program and then on to kindergarten!
I love A's school. As I have mentioned before, it was not my first choice; my first choice was the preschool through our synagogue, where my son, D, went. However, they were not equipped to handle her needs (at that time A wasn't walking, talking well, and still had her breathing and feeding tubes). And I didn't want to send her to a special day class; I really feel she doesn't need that, either. This school, however, has an amazing inclusion program, and were thrilled to accept her. It is through a local church, and is so highly regarded in the community that people put their kids on the waiting list to get in as soon as they are born. No joke. Most of the kids that go to preschool there are typically developing. However, they take kids with needs of various kinds, too. A win-win situation for everyone.
We had already visited the class twice in the past week. Once was for their meet-and-greet for all the kids to come and see the classroom, and once was a one-on-one meeting with A's 3 teachers to let them know about her needs, teach them about her hearing aids, etc. So when we went today, A already knew where she was going. She marched right in, and barely gave me a hug and kiss goodbye. Other kids were crying and didn't want to separate from their parents, but not A! Four years old and already Miss Independent.
Before I left the classroom, another mom came over and introduced herself. It turns out that her daughter also has hearing loss, and wears aids as well. And another child (who we know from last year) is in a wheelchair. So out of 16 kids in the class, I think there are 3 with some sort of need.
I love the inclusion program. Here is a poignant example of why inclusion is so amazing...and this just happened today. A doesn't drink out of an open cup. She needs a straw, so she uses a sippy cup with an attached straw. We do have some Doidy cups for her, which are teaching her to drink out of an open cup, but she barely even likes those. When I picked her up today, her teacher told me that she used a regular paper cup to drink her water at snack time. She noticed all the other kids using them, and wanted one too. AND SHE DIDN'T SPILL ANY!! Being with typically developing peers is so good for her. This is just one small example, but I think it gets the point across of why it is good for A to be at a school with an inclusion program.
I am very excited about this school year, and will savor it. It is my last year ever having a child in preschool (sniff, sniff!)