Thursday, April 23, 2009

D/HOH preschool visit

Now that it's finally feeling like spring outside, I've begun to make my educational rounds. First stop: local deaf/hard of hearing preschool visit.

I would probably consider this to be Lucas's "default" placement. If we don't push for other options (regular preschool, reverse mainstream preschool, oral deaf school 70 miles away), this is where he will likely be placed. This classroom is run by our local Intermediate Unit, which takes care of the educational placement of all special needs children across our county until they turn 5 and transition to school. Because our area is relatively small, this classroom takes a Total Communication approach, to meet the needs of all of its students.

I want to first say that I really enjoyed my visit. The classroom is well organized, with a great student-teacher ratio, structured routines, and a generally happy atmosphere. The kids were very comfortable, and you could tell that they loved being there. That's important. I love the teacher there too, I think she's really great. It was also interesting to see older hearing impaired children, since my only norm is 16-month old Lucas.

I referred to the Preschool/Kindergarten Placement Checklist for Children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing to conduct my evaluation, and I found the program to have some deficiencies in areas I and III. I wish not to go into too much detail, so as not to offend anyone involved reading this blog, but I was a bit disappointed in the physical environment of the classroom.

The children were really encouraged to use their voices as much as possible, but I still felt that sign was the overriding means of communication. And maybe that's what those children need. I found it not to be a particularly language rich environment for spoken language, and therefore not completely appropriate for an oral deaf child. For some children, I'm sure it's perfect though.

We'll see what it's like in another year, but at this point, I would venture to say that it will not be an appropriate placement for Lucas. Only time will tell.

Next week, I'm visiting the K-1 D/HOH classroom at a local elementary school, to see what the school-age environment is like.


Julia said...

I LOVE the checklist! I printed out a copy. We're hoping that Ben will be fully mainstreamed by kindergarten, perhaps even by preschool, and I'm guessing that Lucas will be, too. But they'll probably need some supports, and that checklist gives a very clear picture of what to look for. At this point Ben doesn't hear well in noise or localize well. This will probably improve with practice, but it might always be an issue. I never would have thought about things like fish tanks!

Drew's Mom said...

I just want to say how wonderful it is that you are already considering your options! It is very, very important to be prepared with as much information as possible when it comes time to write your son's IEP.

We have found the checklist very helpful in determining an appropriate placement for Drew. It's so crazy that the school system doesn't have to offer the *best*, just appropriate. The crazy thing is that many, many programs are not appropriate for a child who is deaf/hoh and speaks!

We are in the IEP process right now and it has been rough! I will share more once we secure the placment we want, but I think you'll find several resources we are using very helpful as you continue through this process.

leah said...

Great checklist! We're going totally mainstream with Nolan, becuase we don't have any other option in our area (other than a preschool for developmentally disabled children, but the disabilities there are quite severe). If we had a choice (i.e. were closer) we'd have him at the oral-deaf preschool at BHSC.

Total communication is the mainstay in our area, too. We haven't become big fans of SEE2 and are now just using some keyword signing and focusing more on the oral language component. People who live in rural areas certainly have fewer choices than those in big cities!

tammy said...

This is a great checklist! I have it printed and saved for when I start looking at different schools too. What a great idea to start now though. I just wish I knew where we were going to be in a year! I think I may go tour a couple places just to get a feel for what they offer and what different environments look like.