Friday, March 11, 2011

Reid's "Typical" Preschool Placement... Letter to the Parents

One of the reasons I started blogging and became so interested in other blogs was because as a parent of a child with special needs I have found that "other special needs parents" are my best resource. I have found this time and time again to be true and have gleaned some really useful information from others.... how lucky am I that the Down syndrome community is riddled with fabulous mom and dad bloggers who are fierce researchers and information seekers and that they share their findings so that we might all benefit from it...so that our kids benefit from it. It is really a beautiful and powerful thing!


So, in that vein there is something that I wanted to share that I have not thoroughly put out there....and that is Reid's preschool placement. As he was nearing 3 back in 2009 we knew his IEP with the school district was soon to be here, near Christmastime, and the school would recommend a special needs preschool setting for him.... however, we had always said that IF he could handle it we wanted Reid to go to the same typical preschool that Luke went to. Our philosophy was that in a typical setting the typical peer speech and behavior models would be great for him. Long story short... we started Reid at Luke's old school in September of 2009 @ age 2 3/4 ....once the IEP came around in December we were already convinced that this placement was working out beautifully for him so he remained there all year on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We said, "No thank you" to the school districts preschool recommendation but said, "Thank you very much" when they agreed that he would receive speech 2x/week at what would have been his district home school, as well as OT 1x/week. This year we bumped Reid to a MWF class and again.... this little guy is thriving and we are so grateful for his loving and encouraging teachers he has who just adore him and rejoice with me/him when he reaches yet one more milestone.... what more could a mom ask for! ...ok, quick brag moment....I happened to pop in at school the other day as Reid was painting at the easel... instead of the usual paint "scribbles" ...though very artistic in their own right ;), this time he had painted perfect circles all over the paper....all different colors.... we all commented on it and then his teacher busted out a, "Reid, now you need to write your name on the paper" he had never done this before...in fact we've never even asked him to do that before BUT.....we all squealed and hugged each other when this little guy made an attempt to paint letters on top of his paper and with each "letter" which looked more like tiny circles but still he was getting the concept...he then accurately said R_ E_ I_ D .....Eeek, so super exciting for him, and us!!!!


Another thing I wanted to share is a letter we had emailed to the families in his class. If you are going to do "full inclusion" it might not be a bad idea to make contact with the other families in the class so there is a comfort factor there for others and they know you are approachable and welcome any questions they might have. We are very fortunate in that we have been blessed with some amazing families in Reid's class and when we sent the following letter we had parents respond back ...insert watery eyes here... actually thanking us for having him there and for what it was teaching their child. Side note.... this did not go out at the beginning of the year as I had intended, time got away from me so I sent it out as we first came back from Christmas vacation...

Here goes our letter....

***********************************************************
January 3rd, 2011

Dear __(name of school)__ Friends,

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

I am writing because I have some pictures of your children that I have been meaning to forward to you... that I took when I spent some time here and there in class. Time keeps getting away from me and so I decided I needed to get these over to you before any more time flies by! I will forward each of you the pictures that I have of your child later today.

I also wanted to take this time to say thank you..... thank you for being so loving and supportive of Reid.

Bringing a child with special needs to a "typical" preschool is a scary thing for a parent. We have worried about many things...will my child be accepted, is it the right fit, is it meeting his needs, is he able to make friends? It may not even be necessary to explain why we chose _______ for him but thought I'd let you know a little bit about our thought process... For Reid, having Down syndrome means he will have to work a little harder to learn to do things and it will take a little longer than a "typically developing child" but he'll get there. For him, one of those milestones that will take a little longer is being able to talk. Our philosophy is that being in a typical preschool class provides typical peer speech models that will help him to develop these skills. We have found research that also supports this but for us what we have witnessed the last two weeks with him home over vacation is the proof we needed. Our little guy has just started to explode with words... beginning with the Christmas program where all our cuties marched on stage with heir little halos to sing. My husband and I both looked at each other in that room with pools of water in our eyes when we saw Reid actually singing the words to the songs, he had never put that many words together before. He has walked around the house all vacation breaking into the songs and prattling on with stories which we are not always sure exactly what he is saying (although one of his new phrases is "HOE-leeeee cow" so apparently he is talking about something big and exciting) ....but he is trying to communicate and he now has the concept of adding multiple words to his thoughts....this is huge developmentally and again I say thank you because it is because of your children... they are the best speech therapists we could ask for! :)

The second reason we chose __________ is because we live here in the neighborhood and Reid will be going to school locally with many of the children. Reid will stand out all of his life because of his extra chromosome but our hope for him is that by being in a typical setting early on he will gain friends and allies who will look out for him and who will know that he is not any different than them. ....and this is where I thank your children! There have been many moments this year that have totally melted my heart, like when we came to school late one day because of dropping my older son off and as we got there Miss _____ told a particular little boy that Reid was now there so he could show him something he had brought and had wanted to show my son... I watched as this little boy pulled a Mickey Mouse out of his back pack to show Reid and watched Reid put his little hand up to his mouth in excitement and the two of them had this sweet exchange.... That was just so precious that even though Reid's words are limited he knew enough about my son to know that that would make Reid squeal with excitement. That is just one of many stories that have helped me to take a deep breath and know that what I had hoped for was working.

I probably should have addressed this at the beginning of the year but please feel free to share with your children what Down syndrome is if you haven't already. The way we first explained it to Reid's big brother was that he was born with an extra 21st chromosome in his body and because of it it takes him a little longer to do things but that he will be able to do them with time. Depending on each child some want more information and for some that is just enough.... if you ever wanted more information please let me know... I have quite a few websites in my repertoire now ;).

Most sincerely,

Cheri and Toby

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18 comments:

Cheri said...

By the way..... the shirt and tie Reid is sporting in these pictures... purely his choice of outfit for the morning. I joked with his teachers that he looked like he needed to be carrying a briefcase rather than his little Elmo backpack that day ;)

Summers Family said...

Very exciting stuff! Really great post and I love the letter. Annabelle is 19 months already so I guess I better not wait too long to start thinking about preschool (wow!) She seems like such a baby still, but I guess she won't be for much longer.

So glad Reid is doing so well - what a blessing!

Nicole

Becca said...

Adorable pictures, Cheri, and I love the letter you sent out. Samantha started in a Special Ed. preschool (our county doesn't have much in the way of inclusion models for the public preschool), but is spending 2 days a week in a "typical" private school this year, which has been invaluable. I never sent a letter like that out, but love the idea, possibly, for the upper grades. She'll be going into Kindergarten in the fall. I'm so glad you had such positive reactions to it!

Becky said...

Absolutely agree with you 100%!!! I have talked about this in my blog too. Parents of young kids with Down syndrome need to know this is truly a realistic option. I love to see this!!!! My daughter is going to be 4 years old in April. She too has been in a typical preschool since 2 1/2 and is thriving. The kids love her and she loves the kids, and she is doing everything they are doing! I did the same thing at her first IEP as you. My husband and I knew what we wanted for you and were already enrolled in the typical preschool. All she gets is ST once a week at our local school. I believe if you want inclusion in kindergarten and beyond you must start in preschool! We let her set her own limits...and she is showing the world just how much she can do! I love the letter idea. I will have to keep that in mind in the future :)! Thanks for posting this one...

Looking Up said...

Holeee Cowwww! That is awesome. So inspiring to me as I hope to enroll my son into a "typical" preschool sometime next year. I, like you, feel that it would an excellent learning experience for both my son & his peers.

Nan P. said...

I love the outfit, he looks so.... professional? ;-)

Cheri, this letter is beautiful, and must have touched a lot of people, especially the fact you took the time and trouble to write to them, and to thank them... Some times, all you need to do is dispell the myth and the fear...Good on you Cheri!

Lisa said...

Cherie, thank you so much for this. I am still very, very torn about whether or not to send Finn to preschool as soon as he turns 3 (which is fast approaching this summer), but whenever he does go to preschool, be it sooner or later, I envision him attending the same "typical" preschool my other kids have attended. Your post gives me hope that it's not just a pipe dream. Thank you.

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Cory said...

That was a great letter. River will be 3 in June, and we have been starting the whole "transition" process for him into the school district. I am disappointed already because all they offer is special ed. ALL THE WAY THROUGH SCHOOL, not just preschool. It really made me want to move. And like you, we have already had River in a private school since last September. We think that we want to keep him there a couple days a weeks too, through this next year. We are anxious to see what the school district comes up with. But, that letter is a wonderful idea. I still might need an idea like that in the future. I love Reid. He just looks so precious, and so joyful just like my River.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cheri,

I am sure that when you started your blog you had no idea how many lives you would touch and enrich, but you do both beautifully. My baby boy (who I might add is almost "our" - read 4) is living in the outskirts of Sydney, Australia, and going to a "typical" preschool. I read your letter just as I was grappling to put into words what I wanted to share with our schools parents and was inspired. I have used some of the ideas from your letter to share with Flynn's class and know that he will have a great year ahead. He already has a play date and we are only 6 weeks into our school year. Thank you for sharing your love in each post, Hannah

Cheri said...

Flynn's mom... not sure if you'll be back to see this but thank you for your kind words, and so glad the letter helped!

Also, we have a pending trip to Sydney but not a definite date yet. Would love to meet you and Flynn maybe for a quick trip to a park when we get there!! ;)

Jen Currier said...

Cheri-
I have been pouring over your blog since I finished having dinner with you last night. I love how you communicate and I was weeping happy tears over your letter to the other preschool parents. I look forward to following your journey and more dinners with "the girls" to come...
oxox
Jen

amy jupin said...

good, happy, lovely tears are streaming down my face as i attempt to type something coherent here...the whole idea of a letter and the actual letter itself is perfect! you have a wonderful way with words. i will be bookmarking this for our transition to kindergarten (gulp) next year! thanks for sharing.

Monica said...

Great post, Cheri! (I always love your photos of your super handsome little man!) And great letter. How wonderful that you've found such a great environment for Reid and that he's thriving. I totally feel the same way for John Michael... I don't feel like we got "everything" we wanted, but we got a very good full inclusion option and he's happy there. I just wish it were closer. I could push to have him at a typical preschool or our local school, but his speech therapist is really good and he LOVES his PE teacher. That's really great Reid is trying to write his name, too!

Philip May said...

Cheri, as you say yourself about why you love blogging: you learn new ideas, and so have I.

As we plan our move to Salt Lake City, our biggest worry is that Jonathan will have to start from scratch building friends, and that it won't be as great as it is here in Savannah. I love the idea of not only sending the letter to classmates' parents, but to the neighbors. (We'll be giving out a lot of Deedah's I predict.)

So happy school is working out for Reid; this has been our experience as well. To all you mom's on the fence, PLEASE try to mainstream your kids. They really do bloom as they try to keep up with their friends.

cheers, Phil
www.deedahandme.com/blog

P said...

Incredible post, thank you so much for sharing it with our community. It is amazing to see the beauty of life through our kids. It is really a neat way to watch and learn about human nature in such profound ways.

I'd love to pursue this option and maybe on Monday I need to register for the coop next week and see if I'm brave enough follow through rather than the special needs preschool (where I'm not thrilled with the teacher student ratio actually, I'm a coop mom from three or four to one for TYPICAL kids!!) at least insist on some days at their typical preschool/daycare on that campus. Hmmmm a lot to think about and soon, our IEP is in the next few weeks.

P said...

Yes, ten minutes later and I'm SURE I can do it. We can attend the special needs school the other two days.

I'm very good friends with the amazing person who will be his teacher (her circle time is 30 min or more of MUSIC including lots of guitar--uhm, what is BETTER for my Benji??!! Talk about high interest!).

It's a co-op so I'll be in the class once a week. I can only observe with 24 hours notice and only for 20 min on the closed campus school the special needs preschool is at. YOU Cheri are a mom who is local to me (not sure if you are at the co-op?) and there are other moms in your city (I'm in the city next door to you!) too I think who are in typical preschools so lots of support for us, hopefully!!?

'Coincidentally' registration is in two days, if I missed that odds are I would not get in - no late comers these classes are full.

Everything happens for a reason! Plus then I only will have same time drop off problems three days a week--not five!

Jenn said...

This is so encouraging. Jack is 2.5 and school seems to be just around the corner. His speech is coming slowly but I am amazed by how much he can sign and communicate and do things kids his age are doing. Your post gives me hope for a positive school experience in the future. Thanks for sharing the letter. Such a great idea.