Sailing in Deeper Waters

After visiting several preschools over the last few weeks and after much fretting, I signed Sam up for a “fours” preschool class that starts in the fall. Just three mornings a week, it will be in addition to his special ed preschool which he’ll continue to attend in the afternoons. I hope! We still need to get through the IEP, but I know from speaking with other parents that this is not an unusual path to take, especially in their second year of preschool.

I worry, of course. It will be a huge change for him. The 8:1 teacher-child ratio is pretty big in itself. The potty-trained prerequisite makes me panic each time I change another diaper. (Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made real strides here! Filling that potty every morning and every night before bed…) What scares me is the potty-going perfection required, as in “He must be able to pull up his own pants.” or “He needs to be able to wipe himself.” Seriously? NT kids are actually doing this at 3.5? I’m already looking into private OT to deal with just the potty, and so you can imagine what our summer is going to look like.

But I did choose this one preschool because, as I quietly observed the classroom dynamics during my visit, I could picture my child here. At first I was hesitant to even mention the word autism to the school director. Instead I toyed with euphemisms like speech delay and sensory issues. The power that one word has, at times, to handily precede a person into the room is not fair in my opinion.

“He does have an autism spectrum diagnosis,” I said after waiting for over an hour to register him.

I think I expected at the very least a raised eyebrow or a note of concern, but the director didn’t even skip a beat. “We’ve had several kids on the spectrum here,” she replied. “It’s been really positive for a lot of them.”

Yes, it’s about being around neurotypical peers. But it’s also about being part of a greater community. Many of the neighborhood kids go to this preschool and Sam may very well attend kindergarten alongside them in a year or two. It’s my hope that he will start to learn some of the unteachable social skills that I know he lacks, like turn-taking, like conversation. I’ve seen him study peers and pop a foreign snack into his mouth because another boy did it first (no matter that I have offered him same stated snack a zillion times before without success). I’ve watched him study a crying child at the playground and go over to see if she is okay.

I know that he is racing towards his future and I can only steer this ship so much. I can’t keep protecting him from the world, the big scary one where kids bully and don’t understand differences. I don’t want to keep him from knowing others, but more importantly, I don’t want to keep others from knowing him.

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  • He’ll be fine, and you will be fine! Andrew attended a regular preschool for part of his day in addition to his special ed preschool and he didn’t have the skills that Sam does. It was so good for him in so many ways. I bet Sam will do wonderful in a setting like this. I wouldn’t stress so much about the potty. I am sure even though they say they have to be independent, the teachers will assist if assistance is needed. But he has time and I am sure he will be ready by the Fall.

  • Ohhhh. I totally forgot about the butt-wiping part. Bub hasn’t had an accident in weeks now, but he needs help with buttons and zippers and doesn’t show any interest in wiping.

  • This is so exciting (so were your last couple posts, especially the one about John talking, but I was too rushed to comment)

    I think a lot of 3.5 year old boys claim to be wiping but probably aren’t doing so great. I volunteered at my older son’s Pre-K, and my main duty was helping kids with their clothes at the potty. The wiping situation seemed to be “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

    Hang in there! It sounds like a good place.

  • Oh, such powerful words. I’m so glad you’ve found a preschool that seems to fit! How wonderful…it sounds like he’s on the right path and that this has all the makings of a wonderful, positive experience.

  • This sounds great! And it’s wonderful that the school wasn’t phased by the ASD. For potty training, there are many months between now and September. But I’m really glad to hear that my kids aren’t the only ones who doesn’t seem interested in wiping.

  • Sounds great. I wouldn’t worry. Nobody gets through any of these things without the occasional spot of bother. It doesn’t stop anyone, and I’m sure it won’t stop Sam either.

    And let me assure, you there will be almost endless opportunities for continued steering.

  • Sounds like a good combination. SB also did the “regular” preschool in the morning and the special ed preschool in the afternoon. There were some days (of course) that it really was TOO MUCH for him, but most of the time he was ok with both (and needed them both for different reasons, as you well know).

    SB had a shadow at the private “regular” school so they were a little more lax with the potty training rules …. meaning he continued with pull-ups that first year but never pooped at school anyway (the shadow had also made it clear she wouldn’t change poopy diapers) ….. as for the wiping, I’m still doing it! 🙁

    Hope you’re all having a Happy Easter!

  • Best of luck to Sam and to you, because I know that worry. 🙂

    It sounds as though this preschool is welcoming – the nonchalance regarding the spectrum label is a great sign!

    His peers will teach him a great deal; this will be a positive step, as precarious as it may feel.

  • OMG I think I was ment to find you blog today. I stumbled accross it while reading tulipmoms wonderful pages.
    I have a boy who’s just turned 5 with Autism and have been having a few bad days with him.Well he gets formally accessed on April 18th but all the doctors have been saying for years now he has it. We know he has. I am going to sit down and read more about you oner the next few nights.

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