WE FOUND A PRESCHOOL FOR FINN!!!


Yes, that is in ALL CAPS because I’m shouting for joy!

Let me back up a little bit.

Some of you might remember the nightmare we experienced last year with the school district and getting Finn’s first IEP put together.  If you’ve only recently joined the program, in summary, our school district screwed up by beginning the process of transitioning Finn from Early Intervention to school district services late.  They then rushed us through the process, cramming a three-month process into less than one month, all the while being complete dicks about the whole thing.  They ended up developing Finn’s IEP and holding the first IEP meeting without us, over our very vocal protestations.  The whole thing was terribly adversarial, there was no sense of collaboration, and it just completely sucked.  Eventually they offered us placement for Finn in a self-contained special ed preschool class for kids with “moderate to severe” disabilities.  There were no other options on the table, although we asked – that particular class was all they would offer us.  They wanted him to attend all day (6+ hours/day) five days a week (at three years old!).  Michael and I visited the class and it just wasn’t at all what we wanted for Finn.  In the end, we decided to forego any preschool for a year and just put Finn in speech therapy twice a week – and this was really only conditioned on him being able to get in with an SLP we have a previous relationship with (via Daisy).

Here’s where the drama ended last October.

So Finn has been attending speech therapy twice a week since the end of October.  It’s been a positive experience, although I cannot say for sure that it’s resulted in any sort of difference in his language capabilities.  He continues to add words to his vocabulary and to understand more and to communicate his wants and needs more and more – but this could very well just be the natural progression of things for him, and I’m sure being part of such a large family who talk to him and to each other all the time doesn’t hurt.  (Even his speech teacher says that she can’t necessarily give credit for any of the progress he’s made directly to what he gets going to see her twice a week.)  However, he loves going, and it’s given him an opportunity to learn how to share and take turns and follow directions from individuals outside his family, so I look at it as a plus.

As spring has approached, finding a preschool for fall placement for Finn has been my goal, and it’s been something that has weighed very heavily on me.  I want him to have a typical preschool experience, with typical peer models.  I want him to learn through play, and to be welcomed with open arms.  Where the hell was I going to find all that for a kid with Down syndrome?  I guess the whole school district experience left a very bad taste in my mouth – and not very positive expectations about what we might encounter when we actually began our search for The Perfect Preschool.

Well, as it happened, it just kind of fell into my lap.  I tentatively put the word out to my local friends on Facebook that we were about to begin the process of looking for a preschool for Finn for fall placement, and did anyone have any recommendations?  Right away, my friend Christie got in touch with me and said that she had gotten in touch with the preschool her (typical) boys attended.  She copied me with the messages that she exchanged with the director, and the director was very open to having Finn (knowing up front that he has Ds).  I was so grateful for this – just the fact that I have friends who see Finn as a person, and as someone worthy of typical experiences, you know?  Anyway, this program is a co-op, which I may have been able to make work, but I will be saddled with a new baby come fall, so it might not be the most workable situation.

Then my friend Carrie called me and told me about the preschool her son attends one day a week.  She absolutely raved about it.  Her son is on the autism spectrum, and he attends this preschool one day a week in order to be with typical peer models.  It’s a lab preschool at our local community college – right around the corner from our house, as in, we could walk there.  And as it happens, another good friend of mine, Jodi, is a professor at this college, so she’s a good connection to have.  Both Carrie and Jodi put in a word for us with the director of the program, and I spoke to him at length on the phone last week, and I came away from that conversation so pleased and excited I could hardly sleep that night.

Here’s the description of the preschool from their website:

The Fullerton College Child Development Center and Lab School provide high quality early childhood programs for preschool children ages 21⁄2-51⁄2. Teachers design the early care and learning programs to meet the developmental needs, interests and learning styles of the children. The center is licensed and holds accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The Center serves families without regard to sex, race, religion, sexual preference or physical handicap.

In addition, The Child Development Lab School serves as a college classroom for students in the Child Development and Educational Studies Department. Teachers provide an environment that supports and promotes early care and learning through the creation of natural learning spaces where children can investigate, learn and develop.

The hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm. The Center is open year round and follows the holiday schedule of Fullerton College. There are 2, 3 and 5 day enrollment options. The program is available to students, Fullerton College staff and the greater community. We provide the children with a nutritious breakfast, lunch and snack daily at no additional cost. Please call to visit, check availability and tuition rates or to be added to our waiting list. The Center offers free and reduced cost child-care services to eligible families.

The Child Development Center is a part of the Fullerton College Social Sciences Division and works in conjunction with the faculty of the Child Development and Educational Studies Department.

This is a preschool for typically developing children.  However, the director is very enthusiastic about diversity and inclusion.  He has a background in special education and a degree in Speech and Language Pathology.  He said to me on the phone, “We see every child as whole and capable.”  Um, excuse me while I get a tissue, please.  The school is no stranger to kids with special needs – they’ve had kids with Down syndrome (although Finn will likely be the only child with Ds for now), they’ve had kids on the autism spectrum, and they’ve had kids with IEPs for other issues.

We went and visited the school today.  I wish I had a video to show you of our walk through.  It’s seriously like Kid Heaven.  They spend a lot of time outdoors, and their outdoor area is amazing – gardens, a tree house, paths, water pumps, and arbor, water tables, plus they’re putting in a sound garden.  Very developmental, very hands-on, very child driven.  The classrooms are all mixed-age and divided according to space, and there is a 1:8 teacher-student ratio.  The classrooms are very much like the outdoor areas – just lots of things to explore, lots of hand-on activities.

Finn got to spend lots of time exploring everything this morning, and he really seemed to dig it.  We met several of the teachers, and everyone was warm and welcoming, and not one person gave a funny look or expressed any reservations about having Finn, Down syndrome and all.

And while they typically require children to be potty trained to enroll, they were not put off at all by the fact that Finn is not yet potty trained and might not be by fall.

I asked what we need to do to secure Finn a place on their waiting list, and the director told me, “He’s in.  Just tell us when you’d like him to start.”

Somebody pinch me.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day!

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12 Comments on “WE FOUND A PRESCHOOL FOR FINN!!!”

  1. Alyson
    March 21, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    Hell yeah!!!!! Be back with further thoughts

  2. maggiebea
    March 21, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    Wow!

    A preschool that truly values diversity? Great. A lab school that teaches educators and also values diversity? Awesome.

    One that offers your child stuff he wants to do, sees him for who he is, and replies ‘He’s in’ when you ask about procedure? Priceless.

  3. Caryl Becker Phillips
    March 22, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    Oh great another “Hallmark” holiday. I suppose you want me to buy Finn a card. “Happy World Ds Day Finn! So glad you have that extra chromosome!” Really? Is it really a holiday? HAHAHAHAHHA! You do know I am kidding I suppose. Love that boy to pieces! Anyhoo, I cannot tell you how deliriously happy this makes me. And I am not kidding about that. I know that someone who welcomes Finn will have him for awhile. At least until he is old enough to go to Michele, then Katie, then me, then Mary Mazza! I have his whole elementary education mapped out with teachers who will love, accept, and educate him. And about the “saddled with a new baby” statement. I think you are purposely getting pregnant to avoid helping in my classroom! Now I am back to kidding. Love you dear friend. So proud of how you advocate for your children.

  4. Asha
    March 22, 2012 at 1:40 am #

    Well that moved me to tears! I am so happy for you guys- it sounds like a win-win-win!!!
    Maybe you could even qualify for tuition aid based on ” family density” , I bet you will get it!

  5. Megan @ My Stubborn Little Miss
    March 22, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    Whoohoo! Happy WDSD to YOU!

  6. Meriah
    March 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Wow, I might not home school if Kid Heaven was right around the corner from us!

    Sounds great and I’m happy for you

  7. Andrea
    March 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    I’d like to make a prediction that Finn will be the most popular kid in his class! Congratulations, sounds like it will be a perfect fit!

  8. Hannah
    March 22, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    I don’t know you or Finn, and in fact I live on the other side of the world in Australia, but I just had to leave a comment saying congratulations on finding the preschool for Finn. I read your Blog a lot, a love your perspective on parenting and Ds, and I remember reading in shock your previous experience with finding a place for Finn. My son Flynn (with Ds) turned 5 yesterday, and he attends a community preschool near Sydney. This will be his last year as he is off to big school in 2013 and I am so incredibly grateful that he has been provided with an opportunity to attend a “typical” preschool and to learn from his peers, and to do so completely supported by an amazing set of teachers and support staff. What I love most about this preschool was the simple expectation from them that of course Flynn deserved to be there, and that it was no problem at all having him. I am sure that before you know it, Finn will be walking into his classroom greeted by all the other children, their Mum’s and Dad’s and the classroom teachers and you will get to experience (like you have with your other little ones) the shock that comes when someone else has responsibility for teaching your child new things!

    Best of Luck

    • Lisa
      March 22, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

      This is so encouraging to hear! Thank you for sharing your experience, Hannah, and for the kind words!

  9. TUC
    March 23, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    Yay! I am so happy that you have found the right situation for Finn. He is going to LOVE it!

  10. Anna
    October 24, 2012 at 1:10 am #

    I am so glad that you found the right preschool for your kid. Thanks for sharing this post to us and keep posting.

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  1. Finn’s Annual IEP: Easy Peasy Mac ‘n Cheesy | Life As I Know It - May 24, 2012

    […] the rest of this school year and starting up again after summer break, and he’ll also attend preschool twice a week (independent/not on his […]

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