Here's your unbelievable news of the day: Collin is turning three soon. As in, three years old.
This means that Collin will soon be "aging out" of First Steps, our area's Early Intervention Program. This group of incredible therapists and our dedicated service coordinator have been with us from the earliest days of Collin's journey and have walked with us through some of the most excruciating times of our life. They were the first to show me that there are lots of special people out there who will love Collin for who he is and they have never ceased to believe in him (though I know their hearts have broken during his rough spells) and to wrack their brains for ideas to help him succeed. But February 15th, 2012, First Steps ends. So the inevitable question we find ourselves asking is: "Then what?"
As a three-year-old, Collin will be eligible for preschool services and this is the route many, many parents and children choose to go. First Steps has a great transition program that guides you through the process that enables you to find the best match for your child in terms of school and services. Our school system actually has a few classrooms that could 'handle' Collin's challenges very well and would provide him with physical, occupational, and speech therapy every week.
The thing is that we're leaning toward forgoing preschool. Part of it is definitely that it is way too early for me to entertain the thought of being away from Collin for any extended period of time. Because he can't communicate, I have no way of knowing what happened (or didn't happen) when I wasn't there. His signals are so subtle to the untrained eye that I wouldn't have confidence that any teacher, no matter how kind and insightful, could pick up what he's laying down for them. It wasn't until his beloved Michelle P helpers had been caring for and learning Collin for months under my supervision that I started venturing out of the house, and then only for short amounts of time. And they are both very sensitive individuals in a one-on-one situation with an expert (me) on hand. In a classroom, no matter how small, it would take most of the school year to get to know Collin. Plus, Collin is not at the point where he would either benefit from or contribute to the social environment of a classroom. Unfamiliar social situations are overwhelming to him and he participates even less than he does normally. Maybe things will be different when he's four and he will be dying to get away from me. If so, preschool here we come.
So, why go through the process if we're pretty sure Collin will not be going to preschool at three? At three, we get the benefit of First Steps guidance to show us the ropes, whereas at four we would be on our own. It also gives us insight into what our school system has to offer so we can bear it in mind as Collin continues to grow and develop. Finally, we get the benefit of having a whole slew of very talented therapists evaluate Collin and give us their feedback. I'm bracing myself for the difficulty of hearing what they have to say, but also trying to stay open to anything helpful they might have to offer.
Don't think Collin is getting off easy next year, though! He certainly won't be frittering away his days in some kind of playing-hooky wonderland. He will be getting the same very intentional therapy, exploration, and learning time that he gets now. A combination of NACD program, aquatherapy, hippotherapy, and feeding therapy will keep him plenty busy, not to mention play time with his cousin Ila and other friends. He'll be glad when it's finally time to go to school so he can get some rest!!