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Tommy was not yet three when his preschool teachers started sending home alarming reports. "He stands in front of the mirror for ten minutes at a time, moving his arms up and down." "He always seems to need to hold a toy in each hand." "He isn't saying anything."

We knew that Tommy could talk, play, and interact with us - so we figured he was just shy and quirky. We sent him to a new preschool that fall - secure in the knowledge that the director was supportive of children with differences, and willing to be creative about engaging them. It might have been six weeks later that we got The Call. "I'm sorry," she said, "but we just don't have the resources to help your child. You can keep him here, though, until you find a new setting."

Furious, we yanked him out of the preschool. It was another six months (punctuated by the birth of Tommy's little sister!) before we found a new preschool setting that worked for us and for Tom. In our case, it was a typical preschool with a special needs classroom incorporated into the larger school. Early intervention therapists "pushed in" with occupational, speech and physical therapy. The school worked out well, but it was largely a matter of good luck.

This fall, many parents will be facing the same difficulties we faced. If you're the parent of a young child with "differences," you may be dreading the possibility that preschool just won't work out. If so, this set of articles on Preschool and Autism may be helpful.

If you've already been through the process and out the other side, please share your thoughts and experiences. Did you choose to send your child with autism to preschool, or keep him home? What would you recommend to parents just starting out on the journey?

August 14, 2007 at 1:39 pm
(1) Annonymous says:

I am not a parent but an educator. In addition to teaching preschool part time, I work as an inclusion aide. Our center is very well known for its inclusion program. Special needs children number nearly one-tenth of the schools population and, every child with special needs is assigned a designated inclusion aide. (Until they no longer need one to function successfully) The inclusion aide is essential because they provide support to the child as well as to the staff. They even help with lesson planning, modifying activities to meet their childs special needs. Because everyone is so well supported, we very rarely encounter problems. The teachers can focus on all childrens needs without feeling overwhelmed by having to constantly be on the lookout for one child. The child with special needs recieves the individual care/attention they require from aide/teachers & is still part of the group primarily with support of the aide. (Who works on social skills, group or circle time, etc to ensure this child is being as fully included as possible) child, in I have worked in several so-called inclusive preschools and this is the only one that I have seen inclusion be truly successful at. Go for a preschool which provides an aide, it is truly worth the while.

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