Over the past few months, I've been searching for a good toddler school for Nathan ~ not a day care ~ a toddler school. I make this distinction because there seems to be some confusion about the purpose for Nathan's attendance and to me the difference is important. I resigned from the Senate to raise Nathan myself but it's now time for him to play with some other little ones in a constructive learning environment.
Because Nathan has Down syndrome, he is entitled to "free" toddler and preschool programs at specifically designated locations. I was suspect that these schools wouldn't be what I envisioned for Nathan but I decided to take a look anyway. I was right! The first establishment was actually spooky! It is located close to our home but in the basement of an old building. When we arrived, I had to find the school and ended up in the boiler room ~ no lie! Once we turned around and found our way we were given the tour and the toddler room where Nathan would attend was clean, structured and well staffed but there were no windows, only one unhappy and sick child who was enjoying a donut for his snack, and several rooms for children that need "quiet time." Note - one child and three workers ~ donuts for snack ~ quiet rooms? This was not the program for Nathan.
Over the summer, we had placed Nathan's name on the waiting list of another toddler program that came highly recommended and last week we went for a visit. My first impression was ~ it's a real school, the doors are locked and there are cameras! So far so good!
We began our tour and I was immediately pleased with the bright fun classrooms and the cleanliness of the floors and rooms. Our guide explained that the schools teaching philosophy centers around ~ "learning through play" ~ I love that and Nathan responds well to that type of learning environment.
When we reached the toddler classroom the first thing I noticed was the snacks the children were eating ~ bananas and milk!!! The next thing I noticed, was the ratio of students to teachers ~ there may have been about 9 children and three teachers. We were told that the school does not meet the minimum state standards for ratios ~ they exceed them in a good way. All teachers in the classroom have college degrees ~ an art teacher and music teacher also visit a few times per week to do extra fun projects. The school also has almost no staff turnover.
When we ventured out to the playground area my attention was drawn to the staff ~ they were actually interacting with the children on the playground! This has not been my experience at other facilities and it matters to me.
As of a few weeks ago, they had only one day available but then a few days ago they called and said they would have two days. The days are perfect duration ~ just 3.5 hours. Danny and I both really liked the program and we've decided to send Nathan this week to toddler school!
With that said, I've had two weeks to digest this decision and I'm having second thoughts. I'm fearful that these teachers won't treat Nathan the way I would. They won't cut up his food into tiny bits, help him with his drinks and make sure he is really safe on the indoor and outdoor playgrounds. I've decided to call the Program Director and speak to her about my fears and address my concerns before he begins. Putting Nathan into the hands of strangers is terrifying. I plan on spending amble time in the classroom to make sure everyone is adjusting.
Putting Nathan into toddler school also means he must have the MMR shot that I've been avoiding due to the connection with autism. I know it's not "proven" but my doctor and I had decided to wait until Nathan was two before giving it to him.
On another note, Nathan is into everything!!!! It's a catch 22 because we need to teach him to stay out of the drawers but the simple fact that he's doing this is fantastic! It's typical toddler behavior and it's cute. He knows he's not suppose to be in these drawers, so he grabs stuff and runs and as I get close to catching him he throws it!!
This next picture is Nathan in our wine cooler! He likes to open and close the door ~ he's only taken a bottle of wine out once. I watch him like a hawk now.