One of my previous jobs was as a coordinator for the early childhood special education programs for a group of seven school systems. In that role, I have witnessed the power of early intervention on children with disabilitie
One young boy had received therapies through First Steps (Part C of IDEA) which provides special services to children from birth through age three. Upon reaching his third birthday, the early childhood program in the local public school took over the services.
As he was referred to the public school for services, testing was done to determine what types of therapies/programs would be most beneficial. The testing results indicated that this boy had a mild intellectual delay (low IQ). This information indicated that he would benefit from the early childhood special education classroom along with speech and occupational therapies.
At first he attended the preschool program part time (two to three days a week) then moved on to a full time placement. Because he had a fall birthday, he was able to attend the preschool special education program for almost three full years. At the end of the preschool program, he was re-tested. The results of this testing indicated that he no longer had an intellectual delay and both his speech/language and fine motor skills were within the average range. He would not need any special services as he entered kindergarten.
Was this a miracle? Had the school used magic to eliminate his disabilities? No, they simply provided him with a structured, language rich environment in which he could learn. The ability to learn was always there, but due to environment that he was born into, it was unlikely that he would get the stimulation that he needed to progress.
At preschool he was read to every day. He learned to use scissors, how to hold a crayon/pencil, how to share and take turns. He learned to use a broader vocabulary to express his wants and needs. He was taught how to correct his speech errors so that others could understand him. He learned to follow directions. He learned to play cooperatively with other children, how to work together to achieve a goal. He learned how to follow the rules and behave appropriately in a school and classroom. He learned that school was a good place to be and learning was fun.
He started kindergarten with all the skills that teachers want children to have. He was ready to learn.
While not everyone can afford to provide a preschool program for their child, everyone can take time to read, to color, and to snip with scissors. Take time to go to the park to play with other children, go to the library for story time. Turn off the television and encourage your child to use their imaginations. Provide toys that allow them to pretend. Encourage your child to work and play with others. Take the time to talk with your child using adult language and listen to what they have to say. These activities can help any child develop the skills needed to begin school.