Last summer we were undecided about preschool plans for our little guy, so I toured almost every preschool and daycare in town. I visited amazing preschools, and a few that were subpar. Each time I found a wonderful preschool with a strong curriculum, lovely staff, clean facility, and glowing recommendations, I still came away with the same feeling. That our daughter would have thrived in this type of preschool, but not our little guy.
The types of preschools I toured were faith-based, commercial daycare/preschool centers, and a Montessori preschool. I know there is a lot of discussion about how strictly schools adhere to the Montessori philosophy, and I’m not sure where this school falls on that continuum. I really did love the Montessori school, but when the staff proudly showed these sweet kids working diligently on a project with quiet concentration. I could only envision our little boy not being pushed to engage in a project, being quiet, and his speech falling further behind. The other schools did not seem like a good fit either. The faith-based preschools have a strong sense of community, but larger class sizes. The commercial daycares had caring staff, but they didn’t seem to have the strong understanding of how to help kids with sensory issues or speech delays.
When our little guy was almost three-years-old and it was clear he still needed more help with speech, I finally visited the school district preschool where they use a language-based curriculum. After just five minutes visiting the classroom, I knew this was the place our son would thrive. The staff and the curriculum were perfect. When the teachers saw two children quietly playing together, they understood that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. They would sit next to the kids and model an an entire conversation with the kids repeating after them. The teacher and aides would constantly stop the kids to ask them to describe the art project they were working on, or the game they were playing, in detail. It seemed like every toy, project, or game was a chance to spur the child’s language. It’s also a blended classroom meaning there is a mix of kids developing typically, and kiddos that need more therapy or supports.
The curriculum also concentrates heavily on literacy components with story time, and they focus on both receptive and expressive skills. This meant not only could eligible students receive speech therapy, but the speech therapist would also join the class and work on speech sounds. The speech therapist would read “The Three Little Pigs,” and have the kids practicing the “f” sound. And the kids just thought they were having fun pretending to be the big bad wolf saying, “I’m going to huff, and puff, and blow your house down!” Language was truly integrated into every component of the program.
Our little guy started this school in January, and after working through some transition issues, he’s thriving! His language skills are exploding, and sensory issues have thankfully not been a problem. After just two months at school, he’s sporadically producing those missing speech sounds. I finally heard my little boy sing the ABC song for the first time. It was bit of the remix version with letters out of order, but it was awesome.