Remember when I got that letter?
Wednesday night, I sat in a middle school auditorium, surrounded by other parents who were (probably) just as clueless as I was about the process on the next phase of our kid’s educational lives.
I want to backtrack and preface this post by saying that almost every parent is nervous about sending their child off to Kindergarten. I was very nervous about sending B off in 2010 to his first day of Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE). But, by being in the ECSE program, B already has almost three years of school under his belt. He is definitely fine with navigating hallways, the library, the cafeteria, and of course riding the bus.
It’s the logistics that drive me batty.
First off, there is no full-day Kindergarten in our county. There *are* exceptions – there are 9 full-day “general Kindergarten” classrooms. However, these are for students who are currently enrolled in one of the preschool programs and live in the home school area. Two of the programs are low income-based (Head Start and STEP) and one program is for children with minimal special needs. So the likelihood of B making it into it is not rosy. Bleak, quite frankly.
Kindergartners also do not eat lunch at school. Now, I don’t know if that’s true for everyone else, but B actually does eat lunch at school as part of his ECSE program. Because of that, he actually is in school an hour longer than Kindergartners. So right off the bat, he “loses” an hour of schooltime.
In general, half-day Kindergarten presents a myriad of issues, mainly about what to do before/after school. I know friends that kept their children in private Kindergarten, and friends that pay for after-Kindergarten care. And of course, there are friends who don’t do either and are able to take care of their child at home.
For one of the richest counties in the United States, it’s laughable that we do not have a full-day Kindergarten program across the board. And from what has been discussed, it doesn’t look promising in the future.
Anyway – back to Wednesday night.
We sat through introductions and presentations by county staff regarding Kindergarten. They took lots of questions from parents. If I had a dollar for each time the phrase, “every case is different, so this may not apply to everyone” I could have bought a nice dinner out. Essentially, every child in the ECSE program is different (based on diagnosis and need) so what may work for one child may not for another.
Then, they dismissed us to the cafeteria where panelists had displays and answered specific questions. The staff ranged from a Kindergarten teacher, Cross Categorical teachers (Cross Cat, a new term for me!), staff for intellectual disability, vision impairment, and Administrative staff.
I walked around until I found one that interested me: K-2 Autism. Apparently our school system does have an autism program. As I stood there listening to the teacher enthusiastically explain their day and program, I began to get excited. They do community-based outings, socialization skills, vocational tasks, and other activities. The class size is small. It seemed to combine his current ECSE and his after-school program, which he has done very well in. They also do inclusive activity with others, so there is a mainstream aspect.
This K-2 Autism program is not offered in every school, however. And, based on whenever the county does redistricting, programs will shift locations. In fact, B’s home school used to have it but then it was moved this past year. So, if we do decide to go this route, he will most likely go to yet another school. But – from all indications, it is a full-day program, which is definitely our ideal.
If we choose to go private, the school that B goes in the AM would be an option. They were piloting it this year and are awaiting accreditation If that goes smoothly, it would be a full-day. B is comfortable with the staff and the class size would be small. However, that’s an additional expense that we were not anticipating.
So, that’s where I’m at. I have a meeting with his ECSE teacher to go over progress reports. I’ll share what I learned and get her feedback. He will be evaluated in the upcoming months (every 3 years there is a reassessment to continue services). There’s a lot of information to sift through – mainstream with accommodations or autism-support? Public or private?
But April 16, 2013 is the big date. That’s the day to register him for Kindergarten.