Finding a Preschool and obtaining an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) was an important step for us and will be for you, too. We wrestled with trying to find the right environment for our little guy and wondering how he would perform around other typical kids that do not have a facial difference. I had no idea where to start or what I was even looking for.
As luck would have it, we met a woman that let us know she was a speech therapist at a nearby preschool and that we should check out their site and see if Gavin qualified for services. That is what led us to Launch Preschool.
After that things happened fairly quickly. I contacted the school and set up an appointment to meet with the principal and have a walk through at the school. We decided to go with this program because they have small classrooms with a combination of typical general education children and special needs children. We felt this might be just the fit we were hoping for and as it turned out, it was.
The first day came and it was incredibly hard for me and my husband to let him go, but we knew that he needed to be around other children. This was part of his process in growing up; helping him to learn and be prepared for Kindergarten. Our little guy walked into the classroom, looked back at us and then ran over to some other kids and toys. I think my heart broke a little. I’m not gonna lie but I had hoped he would feel a little separation anxiety, cry a little, maybe cry a lot, but he was so excited to go play with other little people so how could I be upset? Well I don’t know either, but I was! He did get a little sad and seem about to cry when he realized we were gone, but the teacher picked him up, soothed him, and they began activities in the classroom. That was that.
We left the preschool empty handed, which was weird. Then we headed home and I thought “wow, I have all this time to do stuff.” In reality, I had enough time to shower, apply make up, fix the beds and throw some dishes in the dishwasher before it was time to leave and find parking not farther than 3 blocks away for pick up. If I was slightly better at time management those 3 hours of him being at preschool could really have been huge for me! I was, however, sad that my sidekick was not with me all morning so just getting dishes done and beds fixed was huge at this point.
His teacher scheduled an IEP, we met with a Speech Pathologist and began the evaluation. An IEP is an Individualized Education Program that is developed for each public school child who is eligible for special education. The IEP is created through a team effort and reviewed at least once a year.
Gavin qualified for services and they began pulling him out of class twice a week to have therapy in a group setting. We continued with his private speech therapy but this was an important first step in his educational experience. We had the IEP in place, he was learning alongside his peers in a classroom setting where we felt he would feel comfortable, and this was going to make his transition to Kindergarten much easier.
After his evaluation we were informed that he was being categorized as a typical general education child with a speech deficit and that this helped the school to define between special education and general education. When it came time for enrollment into Kindergarten, Launch Preschool took care of transferring all of his records, IEP evaluations, and progress reports to his Home School so that his therapy could theoretically seamlessly continue.
My suggestion to you as a parent who is looking to place their child in a Preschool setting is that you begin with going to your school district’s website where you can find information on programs available to you and your child of special needs. If you are unable to find what you are looking for on the website, call the office and get in touch with someone who can refer you. This is a great first step in getting the information you need and how to proceed from there. Explain that you know your cleft affected child is going to need speech therapy and you want to be placed somewhere that can provide services and to get the IEP in place prior to starting elementary school.
It might be scary at first, but your child will enjoy learning and being around their peers, which is monumental to their socialization. It helped our son to be around other kids his age, to hear how they were speaking and saying sounds, because he really did pay attention. We could hear his vocabulary increase weekly.
Preschool is a natural progression for your child and for you. Even if both of you are kicking and screaming towards it, I recommend it!