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.