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Pre-School

The Preschool Support Group Meeting - Click here to visit the DSA Calendar

Coordinators:
Donna Mulvihill - donnahmulvihill@gmail.com  & Beverly Mulvihill - beverlymulvihill@yahoo.com

PRESCHOOL AGES

The most powerful influence on the developmental progress of a child with Down syndrome is their family. The second greatest impact comes from being included into the everyday life of the community. So like all children, children with Down syndrome are influenced by the key areas of family life, inclusion with peers (siblings, neighbors, play groups, religious groups, respites, extracurricular activities and classmates) and the quality of education they receive – in this case - Preschool

In the last thirty years, there have been considerable advances in our understanding of the processes of development for children with Down syndrome particularly in the areas of social learning, motor skills, cognition and language. Early intervention provides the child with Down syndrome from birth to 3 with services that will maximize their foundations for development and capability. Preschool is a transitional stage which continues this development of capabilities between Early Intervention and Elementary Education.

We encourage parents of preschool age children with Down syndrome to consult with parents whose children are at an age or grade level ahead as they are often valuable sources of information, resources, referrals and support. Parents and teachers should always keep in mind that children with Down syndrome have a wide range of abilities and talents, and that each child develops at his or her own particular pace. Children with Down syndrome may take longer than other children to reach developmental milestones, but many of these milestones may eventually be met. Each milestone that is reached is a cause for celebration, recognition and congratulation – a tradition that should follow them throughout  their lifetime. 

Preschoolers with Down syndrome can do so much with opportunity. Every effort parents, teachers and other team members make now to plan these transitions, do so to benefit the child and lay the essential and important foundations for independence and quality of life for adulthood. 

PRESCHOOL OPTIONS
Public preschools (some Head Start Programs)
Home school
Private preschools

AREAS OF DEVELPOMENT
Potty training
Social skills
Self-help skills
Behavior
Motor skills – gross and fine
Speech and language skills
Hearing
Auditory processing & Auditory memory skills
Visual processing & Visual memory                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

TOPICS TO KNOW
IEP
Supplemental Therapy
Dual Diagnosis

TARGETS by Age 5 years - Comparisons to any other child with or without Down syndrome are not beneficial. Many children with Down syndrome will have achieved some of the same developmental targets as their peers, if this is expected of them. Children with a dual diagnosis may have a different time frame for accomplishment but should still be given the same opportunities and receive attention to progress. 

* Most will be walking, toilet trained, be able to feed themselves and dress with minimal help.
* Most will feel comfortable and operate well within the mainstream classroom, regulate their own behavior and behave in a socially acceptable way.
* Most children will have varying degrees of delayed spoken language - BUT - they can understand more than they can say. Communication may be a steep challenge for a child with Down syndrome but they can gain great strides in a classroom that has tenacious patience, embraces creativity and appreciates diversity.
* Many will have some of the basic concepts and knowledge for learning number, letters, colors, math and reading.
* These achievements are possible, provided that parents have high expectations for social development and good behavior from the first year of life, the teachers likewise believe in the capability and expect progress from their students with Down syndrome and that services offer targeted support for motor development and speech and language development.

TRANSITION FROM EARLY INTERVENTION TO PRESCHOOL
Several options are available for children transitioning from early intervention center programs, in most communities.
* Many early intervention centers offer transition planning services and evaluations before a child's third birthday.
* School districts may have transition information available, and will work with your child's early intervention professional to plan appropriate support and placement in preschool classes.
* Support services should be provided to eligible children with Down syndrome who enroll in a mainstream preschool or whose families choose to keep them at home until kindergarten, or choose homeschooling.
* Parents can investigate if their local school district’s policies provide for the continuation of receipt services after a child turns three years old.
* Some families chose to invite early intervention professionals familiar with their child to participate in transition IEP planning meetings at the school district
* Some school districts have policies about recording meetings, visiting classrooms, and other activities that parents may wish to do.
* Many school districts invite preschool children to a 'open house for kindergarten' that may be scheduled a full year before children will attend their first day, and some have a day or two scheduled in the early Spring of the same year when preschoolers visit kindergarten classrooms and meet teachers.

MAINSTREAM AND INCLUSION
What does mainstream mean? To mainstream actually means, "to include," children with Down syndrome into the regular classroom. Mainstreaming is the active participation of children with Down syndrome alongside children who are developing within the average range of functioning. Inclusion has been required by law since 1991 and public school systems are required to provide preschool educational services to children with Down syndrome beginning at age three. Some states extend this law to include even infants.

MAINSTREAMING AND INCLUSION ADDRESS
Five developmental categories – services:
#1 Language:
#2 Cognitive:
#3 Fine Motor:
#4 Gross Motor:
# 5 Social Development:
Instruction will also include the services from various professionals trained in working with Down syndrome, such as therapy for speech and motor skills. These services should include the preparation of specific goals for the child with Down syndrome which are set up by the teacher, a team of professionals and the parents – this is the IEP.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR AND EXPECT 
1. Look for - A preschool that offers a welcoming and encouraging environment with many opportunities and adequate support.
2. Look for - Education that propels development by having the goal to help the student with Down syndrome reach their full potential within that school year – building skill sets year upon year.
3. Look for and Expect - It's a proven fact that including children with Down syndrome in regular classroom or social settings provide benefits for all children involved.
4. Look for and Expect - From the onset there is an understanding that goals are set, periodic reviews are scheduled and an agreement reached between parents and teacher that the hopeful expectation of the IEP  will reveal “amazing progress” specifically for that individual child at every stage.
5. Expect - Our local communities cannot afford to miss the opportunity to stand for inclusion for all individuals with Down syndrome into our society - beginning with the youngest ages.

WHAT YOUR CHILD WILL NEED FROM A PRESCHOOL
1. A school and a teacher that will not underestimate the student with Down syndrome’s ability.
2. A school that will provide every opportunity to a child with Down syndrome that would be provided to any typical child, but monitor skill progress and provide knowledgeable and creative assistance.
3. A school and a teacher that will offer a classroom design that does not overwhelm the student with Down syndrome.
4. A school and a teacher that will address the needs of the student with Down syndrome by providing activities designed to strengthen skills that are personally challenging. 
5. A school and a teacher that recognize the value of using peer helpers for the child with Down syndrome because they  view this method as a great way to benefit both groups of children.
6. A school and a teacher that will seek, research, incorporate, be flexible and creative in the ways they keep the student with Down syndrome on task and in the ways progress is monitored.

Children with Down syndrome and their families might want to attend kindergarten open house or orientation programs offered by schools in their area and consult with parents of children with Down syndrome who are already attending the school. Even at this young age the goal is to see signs of acceptance and independence. These reveal how naturally integrated the student with Down syndrome is within their school community.

WE SUGGEST: Ask DSA, Contact DSA, Join DSA
VITAL: Potty Training, Inclusion, IEP
WHAT’S NEXT: Elementary Age, Elementary Activity Group