I had her enrolled in an inclusion program through the city--a class of high functioning autistic kids with 2-3 "typical" kids to help them mainstream. Felicity was trying for the spot for a typical kid and it was quite an enrollment process with tons of paper work and screening her with various tests from cutting to jumping to walking on a line, etc. When she was accepted I was so excited, but it's not turning out how I hoped. Apparently all the other kids dropped out before the program started and so it was just her and six autistic boys. We've given it a month and they still haven't found anyone else. They did an art craft once a day and then a 15 minute circle time at the end, but the rest was more social acclimation. They were going to introduce letters later in the year once the kids got used to it.
It's a really awesome idea, but I think would be way better if they had half and half autistic and "typical." The benefit to the "typical" kid is a mega cheap preschool (was free up until this year) and compassion for those that are different than them. I realized that my social little girl was playing beside kids in class rather than with them because that's what happens with autism. I expected that of course, but expected more typical kids to play with in there so it wasn't so quiet and lonely. I told them a week ago that it was her last day but they convinced me to stay one more week to go to back to school night, so we did. While there, one dad told us about how miraculous this program was for his older son (his second son is also autistic and in the program now) and thanked me profusely for being a part of this program. I felt SO AWKWARD!!! It was all very quiet and serious and there was a circle of about 8 of us and I didn't have the heart to tell him I was probably pulling her from it, esp since she's the only typical kid in it.
I've been feeling so torn. I knew it would be good for the autistic kids, but I just didn't feel like it was doing much for City and almost the opposite for her personality. I could probably give her more of what she needed with playdates, workbooks and museum trips. A year ago this would have been a great fit, learning basic colors and letters, but this year it just isn't.
I've been going all over to other preschools and found two that I fell in love with. One is a Catholic school that is AWESOME! SUPER nice staff, saintly even ;). Since the school goes all the way through 8th grade, they have bigger and better facilities than regular preschools. They have a new computer lab with Apple computers, a library they can check books out of, PE class twice a week, Spanish, etc. I mean SO COOl. I wasn't keen on the uniforms idea since I love seeing how City dresses (although what kid doesn't look cute in a uniform) and my friend pointed out that if you start your kid off in an awesome school, kindergarten is going to be a big let down.
The other school is a Christian Montessori school. It's in an old outdated house and doesn't look like much, but inside they have four classes that are unique to Montessori. The way of learning is fascinating, I could see City really grasping concepts through their methods of hands on learning. The whole way of teaching and learning is different than what I've seen anywhere else, I'd love to go myself to see what and how they do things! She is so into movement and handling things, this place looked great too.
I've been stewing over this for so long that it really sounds like a college decision. The reason why is because I think how she goes into kindergarten will really set the stage for how she feels about school generally. I knew Hazel would love it and would do well, but City doesn't speak up a lot of the time. I can see her silently falling behind and embarrassed to tell us if she didn't understand things. Josh felt strongly about getting her started in school with a good foundation that would give her confidence when she starts so she'll enjoy school and will do well.
The worst part so far was just now writing the emails to the school she's dropping out of and telling the lady at the Catholic school we're not going there (we told her we were going to start City there last week and then noticed additional fees that started really adding up and put the brakes on a little). I feel so bad leaving the program without them having any other typical kids in it, I really hope they find some so it's successful, but I realized we have to do what's best for City. The choice between the other two preschools felt like choosing between two awesome and very different guys to marry! I am SO glad I never had that problem.
Here's hoping that Montessori schools really are as awesome as they sound! I hope I don't have buyers remorse.