We are very lucky that First Steps early intervention in Indiana turns kids over to their local school district when they turn 3. We are even luckier that our school district is a good one. We are luckier still that our good school district has a developmental preschool. Given the ASD diagnosis and speech delay, our son qualified for preschool there.
This qualification added MUCH more time to his therapy than he was previously getting (1 hr/wk of speech and 1 hr/wk of OT). There is a lead teacher, aide and then a rotation between the SLP and OT. Awesome. Hearing this news is one of those moments that you feel happy that you have that diagnosis so that your child can get as many services as possible.
The biggest challenges we have experienced so far are adapting to new routines and transitioning. We were prepared for both, but it was still so challenging for our whole family. A ride to school and drop-off has included any of the following on a given day:
- singing happily
- saying “no,” “nope,” or “no school”
- refusal to get out of seat
- putting on his backpack on his own
- getting out of the car willingly
- getting out of the car willingly, but totally sad
So, it’s quite a range….the first few days were very happy with lots of excitement, because he’d been to the building before and remembered there were nice people and fun toys. The middle 5 days were very sad and hard because he realized it was a challenge and he had to follow someone else’s agenda for the first time. The teacher had to get a wagon for him to ride into the building to make it easier for him (and me!). Then we hit a better stride. He finally started to really “get” the routine down and the ride and drop off have been much more calm. He has even stopped using the wagon and will walk in on his own!
Before finding out about qualifying for this school, we had already decided to send him to a different one. The teachers and therapists thought it was still a good idea to have him in a mainstream school with normally developing kids. So, we figured 5 days a week couldn’t hurt. Class at the 2nd school started today.
We had a peaceful ride and he was interested to go in to the new school. He waited (very patiently, I might add) until the classroom door opened. He was thrilled when he looked in the room and saw so many things that he wanted to check out. I reiterated my concerns of leaving him alone today to the teacher and aide, and as the tears flowed, they assured me that he would be fine and that we should go.
I got a call from school 10 minutes later. “Your son is very upset. Could one of you please come back and stay today?” I wanted to give a big fat “I told you so,” but figured since this teacher has known me since I was in her class, I better not be a jerk. I did expect a little more effort on the adults’ part considering there were 3 of them and only 6 students in the room at that time.
I went back and he was already calm, but visibly still agitated and sweaty. He then played pretty happily and kept checking back that I was there. I started feeling confident that he’d be alright (particularly during free play time), and then it was time to wrap up. He was completely unable to participate in Circle Time, and threw another fit that I wouldn’t let him go play with toys that were put away. I had to keep reminding myself that it was very much like this one month ago when he started at the other school. I also decided that I will most likely have to be his aide there until he understands the routine.
So, how do we do this whole school thing? Is something going to magically click? Will we go through this excruciating process at the beginning of every school year? I’m hoping that our diligence with the schooling process now will pay off by kindergarten so that he will be able to be an independent student.