Thursday I packed up the girlies and headed off to see the Children First, the developmental preschool that was recommended to us by the psychologist. It is pretty close to our home so it was a quick trip. It was pouring down rain, but I was grateful to have our bigger car so it was easier to get the kiddos in and out.
The coordinator met me right away when we walked in. She was really nice and very helpful. We went right into the classroom to observe. Morgan made her way right over to some toys and helped herself. She didn't get nervous or upset at all the whole visit, even when I left the room with Piper to go over some paperwork in the office.
The class was just starting snack time. A few little ones came over to Piper (in the stroller) and said "baby", "baby." I noticed right away that there was a wide range of ages of kids. I soon found out that this classroom had kids from 14 months to 3 three years old. They also have a class for infants, so there are just two classrooms total that make up the developmental preschool (there is also a full time daycare in the building). The classroom itself was divided into three sections, one for speech therapy, one for physical therapy and one for both occupational therapy and overall play. The speech therapy section had lots of books and a ball pit (fun!). The physical therapy section had larger play structures and a large open area where the teachers can use equipment like balance beams and throw balls, etc. the middle section had kid-sized tables and chairs where they ate and did art projects as well as an open area with lots of toys. I also noticed that the toys were not random, they all had a purpose and were educational in some way.
Another thing I noticed right away was that the majority of the kids actually looked like they had some sort of disability or issue. Along with the ages, there was a wide range here too. The coordinator said that they had quite a few kids that suffered from shaken baby syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome. Hearing that just made my heart hurt for those kids. Such little innocent faces. Finally, some of the kids were more like Morgan in that they didn't show any physical signs, but had some sort of developmental delay.
To be totally honest, the visit was really hard for me. I thought right away "does Morgan really belong here?" Of course this was a place we never expected to be, so it came as a shock. As Morgan made her way around the classroom the teachers made comments and asked questions about her. One of the speech therapists heard Morgan say "triangle" and she looked at the other teacher in surprise and said "did you just hear her say triangle?!" I guess they don't hear that word much around there. I did tell them that she had these higher end skills of knowing her letters, numbers, shapes and colors. They just nodded their heads. In the physical therapy room Morgan climbed right up on one of the play structures and went down the slide. The coordinator had seen her physical therapy "score" on the assessment from last December and told the therapist (the number means nothing to me). She looked at Morgan quizzically and said "really?!" I guess she's made some progress, but I never agreed with that initial assessment anyway. The same therapist also told me "she's really smart!" Morgan had pointed at a picture on the rug and said "yellow duck." That's my girl!!
So....even though it was hard I think it will be a good place for her to experience social situations and structure. When we were in the speech therapy room the other kids were sitting together on a blanket playing with toy food while the teachers read "Teddy Bear Picnic." Morgan went over and stood by them for a bit, then went off and did her own thing. They said that was common when kids start. It takes time to get used to participating in group or "circle" time.
The Children First program is two days a week from 9 am to 11:15. They also have snack and lunch during this time. I thought it was a bit early for lunch, but the coordinator said lunch was great teaching time for occupational therapy, speech therapy as well as socialization. That makes sense.
Morgan's speech therapist came to our house for her regular visit today. I told her about the trip to the school. She asked when Morgan would turn three and I said December. The school we visited only serves up to age three, then the kids may move on to the school district's preschool. Apparently the qualifications for the school district's preschool are much more stringent as they only take the bottom 7 percent of three year-olds in the district. She said by the Fall Morgan may not even qualify. Her other therapists mentioned this a few times too a few weeks ago...they kept saying "if she qualifies." This assures me that Morgan may be delayed, but she is not too far behind. I spoke with the director of the "regular" preschool the other day. I wanted to inform her that Morgan is having some delays and wondered if it was still OK that she start their one day a week program in September. She assured me that they have had some kids similar to Morgan and she is welcome to attend. She said much of the time kids like Morgan do just fine and catch up before Kindergarten.
Sorry this got so long. So, we'll take it a bit at a time as we move forward. I'm waiting for a start date from Children First. It will be good to have her in this setting over the summer, though it's only one day a week. She'll move to two days a week in the Fall and one day in the "regular" school. Then we'll just see how it goes when she gets closer to her third birthday.