Decide what follows EI. Check.
Start referral process into preschool. Check.
Observe special ed. preschool classroom during school hours. Check.
I wasn't entirely ready to close the door on the mentioned, cluttered, unsafe preschool. I'm generally an open-minded individual and an unsafe room due to inadequate storage does have a relatively easy fix. This preschool came highly recommended to me from multiple sources whom I value so that fact alone was keeping the door cracked. In addition, I wanted Rob to see the school and meet the teacher and staff so that together we could yay or nay on the final decision.
It's been about 2 weeks now since we observed the class. The preschool is one classroom inside a small, public elementary school; housing preschoolers - grade 2. We scheduled a morning observation. On this particular morning, there were 8 kids and 5 adults (teacher, OT, PT, 2 assistants). Not bad student:teacher ratio. Of all the children in the class, most seemed to have speech and language delays, while at least 2 were kiddos with syndromes and 1 had an obvious hearing impairment. None of the kiddos had the physical limitations that Oia has so that should work to our advantage.
We observed circle time. For those of you not up to speed on elementary lingo, circle time generally starts the day and brings the class together by doing whole group activities such as calendar, weather, counting, morning meeting, etc. Oia wasn't entirely comfortable being a part of the circle with the other kids but she did sit on her own chair between Rob and I just behind the circle. She sat for an entire 30 minutes, frozen and mesmerized, and watched the class as they participated. Toward the end of circle time was a chance for the kids to dance about with music before transitioning to the next phase of the day. Perfect timing because Oia was getting antsy at that point. She stood up from her chair, beelined through a couple of kids bounding to the music, made her way to a little boy who stood in the middle of the organized chaos, wrangled him into a huge hug, then planted one of her famous open mouth, sloppy kisses right on his cheek. You would have thought she knew the kid. The poor fella' didn't know what had hit him but he didn't seem to mind. Once Oia released him from her grasp, he returned with puckered lips for more. I guess we forgot to mention that couple dancing isn't until junior high school!
Our visit lasted 45 minutes. All of the adults were attentive and nurturing to the students and the class structure was organized. The kids knew what was expected of them and followed the routine with ease. It was evident to me that the room was less of a hazard zone than my initial visit. Certainly, it appeared a step in the right direction, but it wasn't perfect yet. I also know that the storage unit(s) which have been granted for the room were not yet delivered so my assumption is that more of the classroom will eventually be cleaned and freed of clutter. The 'no kid zone' was still there...not particularly happy about that. Perhaps over summer break there will be a classroom makeover....
Rob says his gut tells us to give it a try. My gut says the same. We are entitled to choose the frequency of Oia's time in preschool and at any time we can switch gears if something is not working the way we'd like it to. I have faith. I already see myself as being one of those moms so I'll know quickly when and if there is a problem.
So come August, preschool it is at C Elementary. Hard to believe. I'm excited for the social and academic opportunities that preschool will provide for Oia; but maybe a bit nervous still. This is my baby after all; and a physically challenged one at that...it's going to be especially hard to 'let go' for the very first time. I feel a little at ease though, knowing that she has at least found herself a cute dance partner.