DSDN Blog Corner: Off To Preschool

down syndrome preschool

When Noah turned 3 he aged out of the “Birth to Three” early intervention program through which he had been getting services here in Seattle. We loved it there and had wonderful experiences with Noah’s teachers and therapists. From the age of 18 months he had been attending a playgroup there twice a week for 2 hours. We really got to know the other kids in the class and their parents, so saying goodbye was hard. My 5 year old had also been attending with us most of the time since he didn’t have preschool on those days. After my third son was born, he also joined us. The teachers were so welcoming and willing to allow us to bring along the whole family. Some days it felt like a lot of work to get all 3 kids (and myself) dressed and packed up to get there on time. I was the one pulling into the tiny parking lot trying to squeeze our huge van into the last spot, always at least 10 minutes late no matter how hard I tried to be on time. I’d unload all the kids: baby David was usually crying because...well...that’s what he did for the better part of the first 6 months of his life. Noah would be attempting to wiggle out of my grasp so he could race around the parking lot. Landon, my oldest, was mostly trying to be helpful but had his fair share of meltdowns too.

I would walk in (glazed from lack of sleep and feeling like I had run a marathon just getting there) and immediately feel like I could breathe. The weight of the hectic morning would be lifted. The teachers and therapists would greet us with enthusiasm and Noah would run in with a huge smile on his face, ready to play. The other moms were a lifeline, helping watch my other kids while I had to nurse David or even let me go to the restroom alone, which never happens at home. Those moms were (are still are) a great source of encouragement and support. I am so grateful for the thoughtful instruction and warm environment that Boyer was for us in those early years of Noah’s life. It was our safe haven and we were NOT excited to leave. I was terrified to be uprooted from the comfort we had there and thrust into the huge and confusing world of public school.

Federal law requires states to provide early intervention services for children with a disability or developmental delay from ages 0-3. This looks different for each state and even programs within the same state can vary greatly. After that, the services transfer to the public school system. In Seattle there are at least 10 developmental preschools located at certain elementary schools throughout the city that offer classroom and therapy services. Noah began attending one of these in September. The class size is small (10 students with special needs and up to 3 typically developing peer models) and there is one teacher, two aides and multiple therapists. The school system also provides door to door bus transportation, which has actually been pretty amazing. I was extremely nervous about sending my newly turned 3 year old off on a bus, but it has turned out to be the greatest and most convenient thing ever. Noah loves the bus. Adores it. You seriously can’t imagine a child more excited to go to school each morning than Noah. As soon as he is dressed, he stations himself by the window to watch for the bus to pull up. There are squeals of delight as soon as he sees it. We walk him out, buckle him up next to one of his best friends, and off to school they go!

Despite my worry about this transition, it has been nothing but positive. We love Noah’s teacher and aides, as does he. They provide such a great learning environment for the kids that is also a lot of fun. It is structured a lot like a typical preschool. There is circle time, free play, music, story time, and activities on the playground. They even have a yoga pose of the week! Noah was apparently always a champ at the yoga poses, as he is super flexible. Noah loves school and he truly enjoys his time there.

It is fun, although a little scary at first, to see your child begin to have their own experiences outside of what you are involved in and have control over. I was worried that I wouldn’t know what was going on since Noah can’t come home and tell me how his day was. I was worried about his safety on the bus. I was worried he would be scared or confused about where he was going. But I needn’t have worried at all. His teachers are so good at communicating how things are going and what they are working on in class. We get a fun newsletter every week. The bus drivers say that Noah is the highlight of their day because his enthusiasm is contagious and his smile brightens up these often gloomy Seattle days. And Noah has proven once again to be independent, brave, and resilient. I am so proud of him and grateful for all of the resources we have available to us!

I'm Jessica, mom to 3 lively boys. Our second son, Noah, surprised us by arriving 5 weeks early and with an extra chromosome. His Down syndrome diagnosis kind of rocked our world at first. The whole experience has shattered our definitions of disability, success and happiness (to name a few) in an amazing way. When I have time amidst the chaos that 3 boys brings, I blog about our journey at http://voetmannfamily.com/

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