Monday, September 13, 2010

Special Needs Preschool

I've been meaning to write about this for a long time now. Months. I have thought of what to write in my head, but just never got it out in writing. Of course, I haven't been a good blogger/documentor (I like to make up words) this summer at all. Life.

The twins started preschool - special needs preschool.

I had mixed feelings about this. Back when they were babies and delayed, Help Me Grow was going through their services and mentioned at three years of age you get passed on to your school district in the form of special needs preschool. I remember vividly being very adamant that wasn't going to happen, more out of fear that my babies would still have delays or worse things which would merit that. At the time, they were only three months old after all. As time went on and they got caught up on some gross motor delays and even progressed through some sensory issues (we used to have to feed Oliver in a dark quiet room and Collin couldn't stand sensation on his palms or feet), we started to notice other delays, like speech. Actually their physical therapist, Ms. Beth (I LOVED her!!!), called that one early on (17 months) even when my doctor wrote it off as nothing. As it turns out she was right. More right than she thought actually.

Six months after starting speech therapy, in addition to the occupational therapy and physical therapy, we discovered Collin had the tell tale signs of Apraxia, which is a neurological motor planning disorder. From that point on, we switched gears on speech therapy and started some intensive therapy more geared to Apraxic kids. Their speech therapist, Ms. Debbie (wonderful!!!!), did wonders for Collin and us. After a few months of this, he finally started repeating some words we said (that would be at 27 months of age). We had to get in his face and exaggerate our mouths so he knew how to do it, but he was doing it or at least trying. He's made huge strides since then, though he has a long way to go. He talks up a storm now, but you cannot understand him as he drops beginning and ending sounds of words. However, if you give that kid a five action command, he can do all five things without having it repeated (go get the ball, put it on the sofa, pick up the whistle, blow in it and bring it to me).

Oliver had other issues, which were actually kind of masked. Though, again, Ms. Debbie saw through them after some time. Oliver has a difficult time understanding. He talks beautifully. He was babbling as a baby doing conversational babble, as they call it, early on. You knew he was asking a question or stating a fact, just by the fluctuation in his voice, even though it was all babble. He would talk and talk. Though he was delayed in speech, he was talking well quickly after starting therapy. That is why it was kind of masked. He was able to repeat back to you what you said to him but in a way in which you thought he understood and was answering you. For example: "Oliver did you read that book?" Oliver's response: "Yes, I read that book." Wow, right? Wrong. As we grew to find out, he didn't have a clue what we were saying. He just knew language really well. I could give Oliver an action item "go get the ball" and he would understand he was to do something (because I also have a visual cue of pointing my finger), turn and move then get side tracked or wonder around the room. He just didn't get it. He also often didn't look when he was called. We had his hearing tested and he did great, but I have to tell you I still wonder about that. With therapy, he's doing much better. Though as of late, I have noticed moments of what I would call "looping" for lack of a better word to define it, where he will go around and around. He is agreeing to things but not understanding. M: "Oliver you can't wear those socks, we can't find the other one." (after searching the entire room) O: "here it is" (pointing to the one sock) M: "we need a second one, we only have one" (counting) O: "Oh.... here it is!" (again, pointing out the one sock, which he has now put on his foot). M: "That's only one sock, how about the froggy socks instead?" O: "no thanks mom, here is is (pulling the one lone sock off his foot and putting it on the other. we actually went around and around on this pulling it off one foot and putting on the other as if it is the found missing sock and I explain in fifty different ways - verbally and visually - it is not it). M: "Let's put on the froggy socks, look how cute!" O: "Okay. They're so cute." M: starting to put the socks on his feet O: "NO (crying), I want these socks." M: "Oliver we only have one." O: "oh, here it is!" (repeat above sequence again from the beginning). To be honest, when this happens, I get very scared. Figuring out how he will get over this and how we can help him is not as easy for me to wrap my mind around as it is with Collin learning how to enunciate, even if his disorder is neurological (and therefore much harder than a normal speech enunciation issue). It just really worries me for Oliver. Don't get me wrong, I have seen improvement over the last year, but just when I think he's really getting better, he seems to regress. Or, maybe it is that some situations just display the issues more obviously than others. I don't know.

Needless to say, due to these issues, along with some sensory and social emotional issues, the twins made it into special needs preschool. And, to be honest, I couldn't be happier.

Special needs preschool has half "typical" kids (developmentally on target or above), also called 'peer models' and half special needs children (which could be of any degree from severe to mild and include developmental delays, disorders, syndromes and those children with life threatening diseases - which cause them to be delayed). Special needs children, if qualify, can start when they turn three years old regardless of the point in which it is in the school year. They do not need to be potty trained (thank goodness because try as we might, these boys have NO interest whatsoever, period.). They all get a variety of therapies, from occupational, sensory, speech, physical and so on due to the needs of the children with those issues. They focus on normal preschool things, but incorporate things that help the SN kids. I have heard nothing but fabulous things about SN preschool, and what it has down for their kids, from everyone that I have asked.

Getting into SN preschool is a series of evaluations with the twins (for them, it was three to be exact), a few tests (scoring tests that I had to fill out, times two), and two meetings. It's a few month process. A long few month process. I remember worrying that Oliver's issues would not present themselves during the time of his evals. I worried that Collin would get in (he was a given) and Oliver would not. I knew Oliver needed to be in. I also didn't want to separate (never mind that Oliver was the one begging to go to school - when they dropped off Ethan each day). I worried for months (even though Ms. Debbie said I had nothing to worry about). My stomach turned. I remember a day after one of their evals that a work colleague and friend called and sensed I was preoccupied, and asked if I was okay. I told her that the twins had an eval today and Oliver aced it (I thought at the time) and I was really worried he wouldn't get in special needs preschool. She laughed saying "really is that a bad thing?" That was the moment I realized that I had completely moved past the long ago stereotype and fear in my mind I had when it was first mentioned to me over two and a half years ago. I saw past the name and connotation. My babies are special needs children and this is what is best for them. I desperately wanted them in special needs preschool, as strange as that sounds on the surface.

Of course my fears were for nothing as obviously the various therapists and teachers who evaluated him saw things that even I didn't see, even though Oliver was performing stellar from what we typically see. Oliver, in the end, much to our surprise, actually scored worse on sensory and social emotional than Collin (who still has in-your-face sensory issues).

After months of waiting, they leaked the news to me that the twins were "in" just days before our evaluation review meeting. This review meeting also was the IEP meeting. Strangely enough, I didn't cry about their IEP items, instead I cried when I found out they would go to a different school than Ethan and therefore would have to take school transportation. At the time, I was told it was a contracted car service (I had crazy images and thoughts about what might happen, drivers, how the twins would feel and so on... but I won't share them now). So, in typical Wendy fashion, after the relief of them getting in, I switched gears to the worry about the ride to school. That one took a "fun" turn right before school started, but I will save that for another post.

So, that's the story explaining the course of events leading up to and the reasons why the twins are in special needs preschool. And why we couldn't be happier about it.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am so happy they are in!! Well written. Your boys are very lucky to have you.
Michele

Terra said...

congratulations!

my two year old twins start "preschool" this week, too. It's just for 2-year olds with speech delays. There are only 16 spots each year, so I was thrilled when they were both enrolled. It's great to know your kids are getting the special attention they need to thrive.

Slightly less thrilling is the thought of all the illnesses they'll get now that they are out of the house more often.

Good luck

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