I can’t believe it is already time to start touring and applying to schools here in Chicago for the 2012-13 school year, but it is. Almost every day, I get calls and emails asking for names of preschools that will accept children with special needs. I am one of a handful of therapists in Chicago that specializes in providing inclusive services to children in their schools and community programs. I have helped many families find wonderful inclusive schools that not only accept children with special needs, but really welcome a family into the school community.
I love inclusion and all of it’s benefits! Everyone wins from an inclusive education: children learn to be good friends, peers make wonderful language and good behavior models, and teachers learn how to reach all of their students. Most teachers and administrators I work with frequently invite me back to visit their classrooms to show me how all of their students are playing and learning together!
Chicago has hundreds of preschools and many are more inclusive than you may realize. I encourage families to tour preschools and apply to schools where you feel your child will flourish!
Inclusion vs. Mainstreaming?
This is a great explanation of Inclusion: http://www.kidstogether.org/inclusion.htm
This is a great explanation of different terms used in inclusive education: http://specialed.about.com/od/integration/a/Inclusion-What-Is-Inclusion.htm
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN SEARCHING FOR A SCHOOL FOR A CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS:
• Low student teacher ratio
• Teachers and aides that are helping to facilitate play during free play/centers activities/recess. They should be walking around the classroom and checking in with groups of students who are working.
• Is there lots of playtime during the day? There should be! Preschool is the time for imaginative play with peers.
• Does the teacher use a visual schedule that is up all the time for students to be able to follow their day?
• Is the classroom well-organized? Is there a lot of visual clutter on the walls?
• How does the teacher let students know when a transition is coming? ie: clapping or music
• Is there a “quiet” area of the classroom where a child can take a break for a few minutes
• The most important question: How did you feel when you walked into the school and the classroom?
Hopefully by now you have found a few schools that interest you and received your acceptance letters.
• Can you or a therapist observe the classroom you are considering enrolling in and the next grade up?
• Are teacher and the administration comfortable having a therapist consult with the teacher to help make accommodations in the classroom that will support your child or come in to help facilitate during playtime, lunch, or a challenging time of day
• Can the teacher meet with you, your team of therapists, and your child before the start of the school year to get things off on the right foot?
• The most important question: Do you feel comfortable talking to the teacher, aides, and administration about your child?
Need help with your school search, inclusive services, IEP, or school-readiness help? Contact me here!
Paula Kluth and Dr. Patrick Schwarz, inclusion experts extradoinaire, have a wonderful book called You’re Welcome: 30 Ideas for inclusive classrooms and some other great books on inclusion too! They both have wonderful websites with great info!