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.
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