Saturday, February 28
Five day a week, 9 am - 1 pm mainstream classroom setting with 14 hearing peers. Hearing impaired children are an addition to the preschool program and are supported in the room with one teacher of the deaf. (If three hearing impaired children enroll there are 17 children in the class; if six enroll there are 20, and so on.) The class is for three year old's, so regardless of the HI child's actual age, they will be in a classroom with three year old's.
The classroom itself is large, with multiple carpet and tile surfaces, making acoustics rather loud. There are multiple stations to engage the child in dramatic play, arts & crafts, building blocks, etc.
There is no clear classroom schedule, with the focus of the school being more of a "Montessori" type, where the children select the activity they wish to do whenever they wish to do it. The day begins with one hour of open play followed by thirty minutes of play in the large muscle room. Snack time is not conducted as a group, but at the child's leisure. There is only one circle time, which is conducted at the end of the day for ten minutes of music or story. The hearing impaired children, however, are pulled to the side of the classroom individually for calendar, weather and an opening story before they can begin playing in the classroom.
The program does provide audiological support through Ohio State University, and can offer physical or occupational therapy if needed.
The hearing impaired children stay after the typical day ends, which is at 11:30 am, for a focused group exercise with the TOD and lunch with the hearing impaired children together.
This preschool is unique in the fact that it brings together a mainstream preschool setting and an deaf oral education program in one building. So, the hearing impaired children are in self contained classrooms in the morning, where they receive their primary education and speech and language services. In the afternoon, the hearing impaired children move the the mainstream preschool classrooms.
The oral school is open on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, (from 9:15 am to 2:15 pm) and have their mainstream preschool on Tuesday afternoons (12:45 pm to 3:15 pm). The schedule of where the child will be each day is a bit confusing, and seems to be frequently changed based on enrollment. The daily routine includes circle time, with calendar and weather, as well as story time. Each child also has his/her own notebook that travels between home and school with the current lesson plans, homework, and happenings in the child's life that can be discussed at school.
The children range in age from three to five years old in the oral classrooms. There is no clear progression in the program. At the discretion of the director, the placement for the child is determined based on language and social skills. There are two oral classrooms at the school. The oral preschool program has between 2 and 3 students in each classroom, with no hearing peers. The teachers have a general education degree, but without a concentration or focus on deaf education. The speech and auditory therapy is provided for 90 minutes weekly as a pull out of the classroom, and is individual. There is no nap time in the program.
There is a clear daily schedule for this program, including table talk, circle time, themed project surrounding holidays, stories and authors, etc. The teachers create individual activities for the children to help with fine and gross motor skills, even though on-site occupational or physical therapy is not offered. Both oral classrooms have lunch together daily, providing an environment of about six hearing impaired children for language enrichment.
The oral preschool classrooms are small, carpeted, well lit and have sound field in them. The mainstream classrooms are larger, but carpeted, or there are tennis balls on the chairs to reduce noise in the areas where there is tile flooring. There is a clear indication that the mainstream preschool has made significant improvement to the acoustics of a typical preschool in order to help the hearing impaired children.
This oral preschool program is offered five days a week, from 8:53 am to 3:00 pm. The program has between six and eight hearing impaired children in each classroom, with the addition of two hearing peers to the "Preschool 2" classrooms. The teachers in all of the classrooms have a concentration in deaf education.
There is a clear schedule and routine for the day, including speech therapy, daily auditory training using the DASL curriculum. There is also on-site occupational or physical therapy, if that would be needed, as well as an on-site audiologist and testing booth. The day begins with circle time, including calendar, weather and a morning message, where the basic principles of literacy are presented. Snack times are conducted as a classroom, providing a rich opportunity for language. They also do a daily math activity, story time, and have an afternoon nap.
This program includes "specials" each week, including art, music, cooking, library, and for Preschool 2, gym.
Saturday, February 21
Drew: "I wanna go Chuck E Cheese!"
Me: "OK, Drew. We can go to Chuck E Cheese one day."
Drew: "I wanna play basketball with Daddy. And [sister's name]. I wanna go to Chuck E Cheese."
At that point, I would have really enjoyed being almost anywhere other than where we were. The wait at Urgent Care was going on two hours, and I was growing impatient and increasingly tired.
Drew: "I go Check E Cheese!"
Me: "OK, Drew. We can go to Chuck E Cheese one day, as soon as you learn to go pee pee and poo poo on the potty."
Drew: "Like [sister's name]?," he questioned.
Drew: "OK, where is potty?"
Me: "Drew, you want to go to the potty right now?"
Drew: "Yes, go pee pee, go poo poo on the potty. Go to Chuck E Cheese!"
I tried to explain to Drew that we really needed to stay in our examination room. While I am all about the "potty training," I also knew that I did not want to miss (and have to wait longer for) the doctor for an uneventful trip to the potty.
Drew: "Go poopy! Go to Chuck E Cheese!"
As I continued telling Drew that we couldn't go to the potty right that second, he decided to slide down the wall he was standing against, squat in place and pretend to go poopy. It was hilarious! And, most surprising, he actually understood every aspect of our conversation. I was using a lot of language throughout that I really thought was kind of over his head. Apparently not, as he clearly understood everything I was saying.
Our little conversations around here are getting really fun!
Friday, February 13
We have been strongly considering several options, both in a mainstream and oral deaf education preschool setting, and have decided that the best placement for Drew is in an oral deaf education program. While the primary principle of the Auditory Verbal Therapy philosophy that we have followed tends to push a mainstream setting, even in preschool, we do not feel this is the best option for Drew.
The primary factors we considered when coming to this decision were:
- Oral Deaf Ed programs hire teachers with degrees in the field of Deaf Education, who understand how Drew hears and the difficulties he might have with hearing in certain settings. These teachers have also learned how to talk to and educate a child with hearing loss.
- The oral deaf education programs are structured, and are completed programs. They include various learning experiences, including music, library, kitchen, classroom and outside activities, that many mainstream preschools can not provide.
- The oral deaf education programs focus vigorously on literacy, an area that deaf kids often struggle with. The program we have selected will likely allow Drew to enter mainstream kindergarten with better literacy and pre-reading/reading skills than his hearing peers. (Seriously, we were blown away by the focus on literacy - we saw three year olds that know all of the phenoms of the English language! My hearing, almost-four-year-old can't do that!)
- Auditory training and on-site speech therapy is included in the daily class routine.
- Daily and weekly lesson plans are provided to families for continued work at home.
- The classroom settings are ideal for a child with hearing loss, including carpeted floors and acoustic ceiling tiles to cut down on noise; sound field systems are installed in many classrooms. These accommodations are hard to find in mainstream classrooms, and can be expensive to install.
- Five day a week, six hour a day program. Many mainstream programs are only half day, and are a maximum of four days a week.
Overall, the selection we are making, which we are hopeful that it will be approved by our school district, will likely allow Drew to enter mainstream Kindergarten with skills in all areas at or above those of his hearing peers. By providing this type of head start, we are likely to save our school district from having to provide costly services to Drew throughout his entire education. Certainly we will ask for accommodations throughout Drew's school years, but our hope is that we are providing our son with the foundation needed to be successful with minimal services and accommodations for grades K-12.
Note: We are not saying that this can not be achieved through a mainstream preschool setting, but we are making the best decision for Drew and our family. We will share with you the information we learned on the three oral deaf ed program tours we took, and will highlight the deciding factors we came to. But I will tell you, we are very, very excited about the curriculum this program offers. We are so excited about it, in fact, that we have decided to send Drew's Sister to the program as a hearing peer in the "Preschool 2" classroom. She will benefit significantly from the literacy foundation this program provides.
We couldn't be happier. Now, on to working with our school district for placement.
Sunday, February 8
I leaned in and gave him a little kiss on his neck, telling him how much I love him. He continued to look at the television, content that I was holding him, but wanting nothing to do with looking at me.
I made a kissing sound a couple of times, and then asked, "Drew, what noise am I making?"
Drew, with his attention still focused on the television, said, "Mommy making a kissing noise."
I was so excited! Drew actually knew the sound I was making, from his auditory memory, and was able to tell me exactly what sound I was making, without any visual clues! I can not believe how normal his hearing development is. Just amazing.