I have mentioned before that Emily is in preschool at the public school 4 afternoons a week. There is one teacher and 2 aides in the class each day. They have been trying to hire another aide since Emily started, but that process has been slow-going. When Emily first started, there were 9 girls and just one boy in her class. Since then, a few more boys have been added to the mix. Emily is the only kid in the class (or the whole school, for that matter) that is in a wheelchair. At first glance, the kids in the class appear to be typically developing. Meaning, there don't appear to be any other physical needs. Of course, I have no way of knowing what other needs the kids may have that are not visible to the naked eye, but Emily definitely requires more help than most.
Emily loves hanging out with the kids each day. They enjoy hanging out with her too. I love listening to the chorus of "hi Emily" and "bye Emily" at the start and end of each day. The kids are all very sweet and helpful. Each day they have a free time when the kids can choose from a number of different activities. For Emily, I think they may choose for her, but I am not sure. At the end of the day, the teacher sends a sheet home listing what Emily did during that time. It will say things like "Played Go Fish with so and so", "Played Legos with so and so", etc. Many days, it will say "Emily did ... with Olivia". The teacher also told me that Emily will always go out of her way to find Olivia if she hears her voice. Seems that my little girl has found a friend in class. I love that!
Emily's other preschool is at the local children's hospital. She started that program on Nov 30 and has been going 2 mornings a week ever since. The first day, I got to stay in the class and observe. I LOVED it right from the start. She works with a teacher, 2 aides, a PT, OT and Speech Therapist. There are about 8 kids in the class (Emily is the only girl). It is AMAZING! The first day, they put her in a KidWalk gait trainer. She was not happy about it, but I was happy to see that they were challenging her right from the start! They really expect big things from her and that is what I love about the program. I just don't get the same impression at the public school.
On day one, they set Emily up with a communication device using eye gaze technology. The first activity involved spelling her name. She really like to select the E over and over again, but eventually did spell her entire name. The therapist would show her the letter and then had her choose the matching letters on the screen by looking at each one. The next activity with the communication device was picking colors to design a craft wreath. She did pretty well with that. During this activity, it was hard to tell if she was picking the squares that were easy for her to select or the colors that she really wanted. The third activity revolved around a snack. She had 3 options: "I want a bite", "I want a drink", or "I am all done". At this point, she was pretty mad about all the stuff they had done with her (they worked her hard). The therapist set her up and then went across the room to get something. In the meantime, Emily hit the "I am all done button" about 5 times. This time there was no doubt she knew what it meant. She was mad and she was telling us that she was done! haha! She eventually got over her foul mood and did some work. She was very excited when she would say "I want a drink" and would get one (through a syringe). She got the biggest smile on her face. It was wonderful to see!
She uses the communication device a lot during class, but she also uses switches to participate in circle time and other activities. The kids are moved through several areas during the few hours of class. They use different pieces of equipment and lots of different technology. They always do a snack time too. They make sure the kids try something new each class. Emily has tried some green beans, tropical fruit, cookies, french fries, etc. She has had a couple of days when she was not really herself. She was just kind of blah. Most days, though, she is happy and cheery throughout the whole class. She definitely lets them know when she isn't happy about a piece of equipment (usually a stander or gait trainer), but loves every other aspect of the class.
I wondered how she would do with the long days because she misses her morning nap, but it has not been an issue. (I think I have been more cranky about it!) We get her up around 7:20 or so. It takes at least an hour to get there (if traffic cooperates). I have to arrive early, so I can feed her before circle time starts. Then class lasts for just over 2 hours. When that is over, we drive straight to public school. I feed her again before she goes to class. Then I pick her up later and head home. We usually don't get home until about 4pm. That is a long day for a 3 year old! I think she loves the challenge and the social interaction. So she just goes with it. She even seems cranky on the days when we don't go.
It makes for 2 pretty stressful days a week (for me anyway), but it is SO worth it. I am so thankful that we have the opportunity to put Emily in this program. I know she gets more out of her 2 days there than the 4 days at school! I love the way that they push her. They don't let her get away with any of her usual tricks. They really expect a lot from her. I love that about the program and I think that she likes it too.