What kind of preschool for a HFA (Aspergers)?

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Gnomey
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06 Oct 2011, 4:16 pm

My 3 year old daughter currently goes to a preschool or playschool which is just art and gym at the rec center. She went last year and she really liked it I think because for part of the class they took her to an indoor play structure in the building. She got to climb and play alone I'm sure. She had some behavior problems like running away on the way to the indoor play structure but she wasn't disruptive. This year, she is in a 3 year old class which has a bit more structure in the playtime/gymtime and is a larger class size of about 17 kids and 3 instructors. The thing is she gets good behavior stickers but I can tell she is stressed and she tells me she doesn't want to go. However, once she is there she is fine. I think she is getting stressed because there are so many kids, teachers and sometimes parents in the room and it is a much larger class than last year. Most preschools don't have that many kids. However, by next week she will have an aide in the classroom which might really help.

My question is should she stay in a large rec type class or should she be in a more smaller class that is more academic with some focus on writing and letter sounds. She will have an aide whichever I choose. I should also point out that on alternative days M/W/F she already goes to another more academic type preschool for French Immersion. I was just given an option of switching her on the Tues/Thurs days.



zette
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06 Oct 2011, 7:11 pm

For my son, the best environment was where there were only 12 kids and 1 teacher in the classroom. He previously attended two schools that had a ratio of 12:1, but there were 24 kids and 2 teachers physically in the room, and he was very stressed. I really think just having less people meant less noise and movement and so less stress. Also, DS strongly disliked anything to do with writing, and had a lot of ADHD-type attention issues. For him, it was better to be in a play-based environment with minimal academic demands (they did have circle time, sharing, and letter of the week, but they weren't trying to teach reading or writing) and to focus mainly on social development. The most important thing was having a fantastic, passionate teacher. We got very very lucky -- his teacher was also a part-time nanny for another boy with AS, and had been given a lot of training. She put us on the path to a diagnosis, and also worked extensively on his social development.



blondeambition
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06 Oct 2011, 7:32 pm

I agree that a smaller class will definitely be less stressful. Both of my kids get bothered by too much noise and large crowds and are happier and more outgoing in small groups.

Also, have you checked around on the net and with your local Autism Society chapter (if there is one) to see if there are local preschools for autistic kids? I live in Austin, Texas, where there is a large number of autistic children, and there are many private preschool programs for autistic kids.


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momsparky
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06 Oct 2011, 8:26 pm

Gnomey wrote:
I should also point out that on alternative days M/W/F she already goes to another more academic type preschool for French Immersion. I was just given an option of switching her on the Tues/Thurs days.


The best thing we ever did for my son we did totally by accident: we enrolled him in a full-immersion Spanish preschool, and moved him into a Two-Way-Immersion elementary school.

The benefits weren't immediately obvious: my son is so resistant to speaking in Spanish that I've finally come to realize it's probably an expressive language issue related to autism (his receptive language in Spanish is very good.) However, he did learn to read facial expressions incredibly well, because the teachers all managed the language difference by exaggerating their expressions and telegraphing things visually. We didn't know he was autistic at the time, but if I had it to do over again, the language immersion school was a really good thing.

As for the rec classroom, I think it may be helpful if she has a visual schedule of the day there: it may feel unpredictable to her; probably having that and an aide to explain the rules will help her feel more confident. (I sometimes wonder if "running off" is not trying to get away but more misunderstanding the boundaries other kids "get" intuitively)

I think keeping her with a larger group of kids is a good idea if you plan on putting her in a regular elementary school where class sizes may be even larger.



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07 Oct 2011, 7:52 am

When my daughter was a pre-schooler, I knew she was difficult, but I had no idea that she might have an ASD. So, I just looked for somewhere that appealed to me - nice staff, pleasant surroundings, etc. I viewed the council nursery, but it was huge. I was completely disorientated and my daughter said, 'Please don't send me there, it's too big'. Then, I came across this lovely little nursery in the next town. It was in a converted farm building on a non-working farm. They had loads of land, 2 horses, sheep, rabbits, etc, perfect as my daughter loves animals and being outdoors. There were no more than 15 kids on any particular day. It had plenty of room for the kids to find their own space and a quiet room for chilling out. They had some structured learning, but nothing too demanding. I wasn't concerned about the academics at that stage and most of what they did was learning through play. She left to go to school when she was 4 1/2, could write her own name, count to 20 and knew shapes and colours. She learned a lot more which can't be quantified in the same way. But, my main concern was that she was cared for and she was.


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angelalala
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08 Oct 2011, 7:53 pm

My son just started pre-k in a program we both love. It's a small class (maybe 12-15) with 2 teachers, and is play-based. They aren't starting any kindergarten readiness until after the new year. He's doing really well, though his teacher says he primarily plays alone (she's working on trying to get him to play with the other kids).

I'm applying for him to go to Montessori and Waldorf school for kindergarten. I know he will not thrive in a sitting-at-a-desk-in-rows environment, and I'd rather he be in a program that doesn't stress formal academics (as in, from a book/drills/etc as opposed to play-based, hands-on activitites) before he's ready.