Thursday, May 20, 2010

Preschool Rant (Probably to be the First of Many...)

Today I experienced a very unfamiliar pang. One that I know I will feel again and again, as we begin to turn a corner in Samantha’s schooling. I think I should have always known it was coming, but ignorance can truly be bliss for me. I felt it not once, but twice today. It was the feeling that all will not necessarily be right with the world for Samantha. She will not be able to just waltz in anywhere and use her charms to get whatever she wants. She will not be afforded every opportunity presented to typically-developing children/teens/adults. She will be denied. She will be looked upon as lacking. As a mother, these slaps of reality do not sit well. They bring up anxiety and fear, and most of all, anger. Anger at injustices. Anger at prejudices and ignorance. Anger at exclusion.

Now, I have not actually spoken to either of the people that angered me today. But I can imagine what they’re thinking. Actually, when I imagine what they’re thinking, I start to realize that they may just be feeling fear. They don’t necessarily know what to do, how things are, how to react. And I guess I can’t fault them for that.

We’re looking into supplementing Samantha’s special education preschool in the public school system with private preschool, putting her into public three days a week, and in private, two. The next school year is incredibly important for her, as it will be her final preparation for entry into Kindergarten. I want her to get more exposure to her typically-developing peers so she can be better-prepared socially for the transition. As such, we’ve begun to look into some of the preschool programs available to us. We’re fairly specific about when we want her in the typical class (morning sessions, two days a week), so I’ve begun to send feelers out to some of the preschools to see who offers that kind of program.

Steve spoke to one woman this morning who was very quick to point out that she’s “not a special education teacher!” He calmly and emphatically told her that that’s exactly the point. She kept repeating it, I guess thinking that perhaps he wasn’t understanding her, and he again made his point, trying to explain our situation. Her reaction both angers and concerns me. There are plenty of children with special needs of all sorts that go to typical preschools. Is she that green as a teacher that perhaps she has never had the experience of a “special” child in her class? Is she just afraid? Or was she trying to discourage us due to innate prejudices?

I sent out some e-mails inquiring about the programs at several of the local preschools. I got one reply stating that they don’t do a 2-day-per-week morning program (just 3 or 5), and that “Due to the ratios and the academic nature of our classrooms, we also usually do not take children with special needs.” Hmph. I guess I should have expected to see that at some point. But I had only stated that Sammi was in the special education preschool in the public school system, not specifying why. There are a lot of children in her class that just have speech delays, no real special needs. Is the assumption generally that children in special ed automatically have special needs? I guess to an outsider it would...? And maybe I should just admit that she’s right to deny her, given the student-to-teacher ratio, but I’m a bit offended all the same.

Okay, rant over. Back to regularly scheduled programming.

12 comments:

Stephanie said...

Unfortunately, it is common everywhere. There are a lot of preschools that "are not equipped to deal with special needs". UGH!

Courtney said...

You know, I just have to say, as a "retired" Special Education Teacher (I'm a SAHM)... before I got my credential I had a lot of wrong assumptions. First of all people don't realize there are degrees of disabilities. It helps to explain to teachers what she CAN do, and be specific about what you are looking for.
Answer their worst questions ahead of time- things regarding pottying, communication, behavior. If you can beat them to those things the good teachers really can be open.
Good Luck! Good Teachers are few and far between, even in the SpED Dept., ask around a ton, be positive, be vigilant.

heather said...

I found that preschool around my home were legally obligated to take Morgan but found a way around it with toilet training. They only accept children who are toilet trained and Morgan wasn't. It is a frustrating process but if she is potty trained I think you'll be successful at finding an additional preschool for her.

Amber said...

I take comfort in knowing it is COMPLETELY the loss of these facilities and the children she may have met.
Man...it's discouraging though. I have my own "rant" I'll be posting on soon.
Ugh...I'm sorry. For you, me, all of us. :0/

Carol N. said...

Can you talk to any of Sammi's therapists? Aidan's speech therapist recommended a preschool with a great teacher who is big on integration. His OT recommended another one for the same reason.

He's in an 8 week into class to the preschool right now, and this afternoon went and sat on the teacher's knee while they sang songs quietly together in the music corner. After seeing her with him, I have no reservations.

Good luck!

Lacey said...

Ridiculous! Can't your public school put her in a classroom like that? Our preschool has both special needs, and typical children in the class.

Jeanette said...

We are just starting our PPCD process with our first ARD next week. This whole thing just puts my nerves on edge!

kecia said...

i am sorry! fortunately I am loving Bree's preschool because it is exactly what you are searching for...it is a "typical" classroom and Bree is among a few others with special needs...most language. She is the only one with ds but before I knew much about this preschool I was hoping it would be this inclusive and so far I am pleased. She has a special ed teacher who comes in to assist her and then there are 2 full time teachers in the class and then she gets pulled out of class for speech and occupational therapy. I hope you find something deserving of your little sunshine!

RobMonroe said...

The rant does not have to be over - it's your role in Samanthas' life to rant and to get better for her than what others expect.

Tricia said...

Hi. I read you from time to time, but don't comment much anywhere these days. But wanted to say here: 1. Have you considered not mentioning the special needs or DS at all until you are in the school and observing? If they meet you/S, they may be less likely to jump to conclusions. Also, a comeback to "I'm not a special needs teacher," might be, "I wasn't and am still not a special needs parent, but I learned quickly that my daughter needs a little help with some things and it was certainly easy enough to accommodate her when I knew what her needs were."

Just a thought. It does hurt though. I understand completely!!

Michelle said...

oh that is so frustrating to read about their narrow-mindedness! They haven't even met Sammi, and it's preschool - very easy to be included in preschool!

Cheri said...

I love Tricia's idea of taking her with you when you visit schools.....Sammi will blow their stereotypes out of the water, big time! You cannot help but look at Sammi and fall in love with her and see how "typical" she is. Seems we will always be educating people, hmphhh. But, reading this makes me feel so fortunate for our placement, and am about to blog about it soon. But, our big help was that the director has a nephew with Down syndrome who is 20 and Reid was born while my Luke was at the preschool so they all had this special place for him in their hearts from the get go....it is actually the school district I am having issues with who are guilting me by saying I am doing him a disservice by not having him in their program, but I look around and everyone in that class needs speech and it worries me because speech is going to be his biggest issue and so my theory is to have him where he gets exposed to typical peer speech models during the day. I am rooting for you and love your idea of splitting the week up between the two schools.(we may be doing that at some point too) :)BTW....Reid's school also has a "you must be potty trained" rule like others have mentioned but I asked them if they would make an exception if I sent him in pull ups and if I would be on "poop patrol" and would come up there to change him and so far it has worked pretty well, though I've been up on patrol more times than I'd like to admit.;)