Friday, May 22, 2009

Observing Preschool

Another interesting day, all about Nikko, and I was on the go go go. Early this morning (early for me, 8am-ish) I went to Westbrook School to observe the morning class that Nikko will (probably) get into for preschool. I parked and watched the carpool line and was fascinated by the orchestra of drop-offs. Perhaps other preschools/kindergartens do this and it sounds like the boring norm, but it's totally foreign to me so I was impressed. One line was for cars and the other was for buses. At 8:30 at least 7 or 8 teachers came out to herd the kids out of waiting cars or in lines from the buses and into the school. The teachers all seemed to be in good moods, welcoming the kids and waving to parents. It seemed like the teachers knew all the kids' names. After the cars and kids cleared out I went in and reported to the front office. I met up with Kathy Winters, the Speech Therapist but also Important Teacher, and she took me to the classroom where I went two days ago for Nikko's first meeting. She talked me through everything and left no question unanswered. The kids were curious about me but attention spans are very short. The teacher at the front, Mrs. McCarthy, was leading the opening with songs, finding the morning helper, stretching, and prompting action from the kids. The kids sat on circles that were detachable from the carpet. The circles were decorated with bugs or animals. Cute. The time flew by, and it felt like they had so much going on in the two-hour time span of preschool. This is the schedule they followed, as posted on the board using PECS pictures, I noted, and my comments on each:

OPENING - The kids came in (I missed that part) and had some play time before circle time started. A little boy was doing show and tell, and called on kids in the class to guess what was in the box (a Cars racing car). A helper of the day was picked and she assisted the teacher in the weather report. They also read a few books. Miss Winters gave me a quick tour of the facility and said that there were two, possibly three morning classes that Nikko could be part of. It wasn't guaranteed that he'd be in the one in the room that we were in. I hope that he does get that room and that group of teachers because I think they were stellar. There were also two teacher aides that helped out, setting up table time activities, snack time, and I found out later that they are the potty gurus who help take kids to the bathroom. One big thing I noticed was that the teacher was using basic sign language when she was talking about activities. She talked and signed things like cold, hot, rain, play, yes, and other basics I've seen on our DVDs.

TABLE TIME - The kids split up into two groups and via timer were directed to different activities. One group sat using scissors to cut out the rays of a sun. The other group sat and had to guess which objects being tossed into a bin of water would sink or float.

GROUP LANGUAGE - Miss Winters headed up this portion since she's the speech teacher. She was reading aloud from a big book and signing at the same time. During this activity I chatted with Miss McCarthy about other procedures, such as the buses and going to the bathroom. She showed me the bathroom in the back of the room and said the kids are encouraged to sit on it at least once a day during play time. If they did something in their diaper there was a changing table and one of the aides would change the kid. She said that the aides were the experts at taking the kids to the bathroom. The kids also had to keep a few changes of clothes at school, for accidents.

SNACK - The kids sat with place mats and had apple juice and graham crackers. Then, at the ding of a bell, it was....

PLAY TIME - During play time the therapists would call out a particular child and either take him/her to a corner of the room to work on speech or developmental stuff, or if it was OT they would go to the OT room where they had a swing and mats and other stuff similar to what Shelly does for Nikko. The aides also ushered the kids one at a time through the bathroom to use the potty.


I left during playtime because the rest seemed self-explanatory. I was also happy to hear that if we choose to send Nikko via bus, the bus comes right to our house. We don't have to go to the corner of the street. This is a relief because I have been planning how to get the kids in either the triple or the double each morning. What kind of looks sad are the harnesses that the special needs kids have to wear. Reminiscent of Hannibal Lector, they are chest harnesses that zipper in the back and have a strap under the crotch. It's for their safety, I know, but for a minute I wished that Nikko wouldn't have to wear it, that he could mainstream like the other kids. But then I shelved that idea because the reality is that Nikko wouldn't be safe if he weren't harnessed in on a bus. Mainstreaming can come later, but right now Nikko needs to be in preschool. In fact, I could hardly wrap my mind around what I saw: a bunch of kids, typical kids mixed in with atypical, being social and working/playing together. They were behaved for the most part, and polite when they could. Miss Winters reminded me that it is May, not September, it's the end of the year so all these kids have been used to the routine and in school for a while so I'm not seeing any meltdowns. I'm sure I'll get prepped prior to preschool, but I have to get Nikko a backpack, keep showing him the Signing Time DVDs, get a wooden step stool for the bathroom (that's a given, so that Ronin can use it, too) and to keep pushing the picture therapy and/or weave PECS pictures into our day. The concept of pictures as a representation of a real thing is still foreign to Nikko, but I need to push that. I wonder if using people picture will be a better idea to grasp.

After preschool I zipped to Target to get some containers for the brick blocks, and made it back home to find that Bo the DT was already there. Denis took Ronin downstairs and I sat with Nikko and Bo. He wasn't very cooperative today and I don't know why. He didn't engage fully in the puzzles or with Elmo or with the dishes or the duck puppet. After Bo left we went downstairs for a brief runaround with Ronin and then it was lunchtime. After lunch, Denis stayed with Audrey and Ronin, while Nikko and I went to OT. Ronin had fallen asleep in his highchair so that screwed up his nap schedule for the day. Nikko had a very good OT session. Shelly worked with him on the swing, swinging him even more vigorously than the last time. She wanted to increase his input and told me to watch if he crashed less in the next day or so. He also played with this rubber tubing, hanging it around his neck like a necklace. He was playing with it, stretching it over his head and around his arms. Shelly liked his exploratory play. I wondered how I was going to get him to transition away from it because he seemed extremely attached to it. I took out some gummy fruit snacks and showed one to Nikko. He dropped the tubing like it was on fire. That was an easy transition. After OT I took Nikko to Lakeshore Learning to hunt down some cool stuff I saw Gloria had. LL is like Constructive Playthings except that the store is a little nicer and the items are pricier. I looked for deals, as I had found some gems at CP, but I really didn't find a deal at LL. I did find a generic Magna Doodle and the Box of Chocolates shapes that Gloria had. There was a matching shapes game that looked useful and some kind of building connection set that had some circles that looked like cogs and wheels. Finally, I picked up two toy airplanes so the boys wouldn't fight over them.

Dinner was a fiasco because Ronin was crabby and tired and fell asleep in the high chair at 7:30p. Nikko had previously fallen asleep at 7p so I had to wake him up to eat, he didn't want to wake up so he was crabby. Audrey was as crabby as Ronin and she fell asleep eating her bottle at 7p. Disaster! Can't say Nikko finished his food. After dinner, the boys played with my cogs toy. Nikko especially seemed interested in it and spent a good amount of time building up, fitting cogs into little peg holes, and being proud of his final creations. I'd say it was a good choice to buy just for the productivity I saw in what he did. All bath and bedtimes were late. The weather's been hot around here, so it's hot indoors as well. Tomorrow should be cooler, I hope!!


  1. Hey Mich,
    The preschool sounds like a lot of fun and structured. Good for Nikko. Let me know if you need anything laminated or help with the schedule. Just do it!


  2. Thanks, Anna! Just when I put a call in to use the Autism Resource Center @ Clearbrook, the lady in charge went on vaycay for a bit. Do you think you can help me put together a laminated picture schedule board? I have seen a very simple one used by our OT; it's just a file folder cut in half lengthwise (the long way) and she put five or so velcro circles on it spaced evenly. So it's a long picture schedule, maybe less than two feet long, and it folds where the folder had creases. I think the file folder helps give it some heft. I don't care what color it is. I think I have velcro strips here, but can find some out & about, too. Let me know if that makes sense, Anna. Again, thanks for offering. Even more so now I want to keep Nikko moving forward!