How to choose the right preschool for kids with special needs

Enrolling a child with special needs into a school setting is always better than a 1:1 setting to give them the opportunity to interact with others and improve their social skills. Moreover, enrolling them as young as 15 months or the minute ‘red flags’ are noticed is better because therapists/teachers can pace the activities in small progressive bite sizes effectively.

But when a parent of a child with exceptional needs or learning difficulties asks ‘how to choose the right preschool’, it is often a very difficult question to answer. Here we ask ‘the right preschool in whose perspective, the parent or the child?

Are the parents looking for a centre to cure their child of a disability or are they looking for a centre which can enable their child to rise above their disability?

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Parent’s needs or child’s need?
Many parents have a pre-conception of the type of pre-school they want their child to be enrolled in – often to the point of downplaying the severity of their child’s learning difficulty or an exceptional need.  Then you find they will be school hopping because the school cannot support the degree of their child’s learning difficulties or they are not able to see the bite-size improvements in their child because they are expecting big changes within a short period.   

To such parents, no school is good enough as they keep sourcing for the ‘ideal’ school which then is detrimental to their child with special needs.  All children, whether they are special or neuro-typical, need time to settle into a school, a program, routine, class, etc. 

The right school for whom?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ method. No school can promise this either. Each child’s Individual Education Plan or Program (IEP) will be different and each therapy or teaching is again different to bring out the best in a child.

However, the most suitable preschool for a child with special needs is probably one that provides for an inclusive pre-school program. Inclusive simply means, integrating children with all forms of learning difference/disabilities into a common classroom setting following ECDA curriculum, while at the same time, applying modifications and creative teaching methodologies across all levels.

Children are moved from EIPIC to Pre-school services such as Pre-nursery, Nursery, Kinder 1 and Kinder 2. While many will be transited to mainstream neighborhood school, selected few may be enrolled into Pathlight School. 

What to look out for when selecting the right school?
To get a ‘true picture’ of what a school is like, you should get to view the centre and its facilities during school hours where you can witness classrooms in action and not on a designated ‘open house’ session, where everything is in place and looks good.

Moreover, your initial visit should not be subjected to compulsory enrolment but instead give your child a feel of the centre and whether it gives your child positive vibes.

After your child starts attending the pre-school, you will have a better idea of whether the school is good based on some of the following values:

  1. You get to meet the Principal on the first day, and throughout your child’s enrolment in the school. The Principal is accessible 24/7 to parents, answering their texts at any hour of the day and providing quick and safe strategies to manage your child at no costs.
  2. The school is totally transparent with parents and expect parents to be transparent with the school.
  3. The school demands an uncompromised positive collaboration with parents for the sake of their child.
  4. Parents (mother and father) can table their differences in child rearing and seek advice or consultation on how to manage their child at home at no costs.
  5. There is a mutual trust between school and parents. Parents can trust that their child is in good hands, will be well looked after in terms of care and teaching and that they will move up positively.

Preschools that can provide the above needs are worthwhile enrolling your child into.  The key point here is time.  Ensure the school is provided with sufficient time to prepare your child for greater challenges in the mainstream curriculum.

Pre-schools like Divinity Kindergarten adopt a holistic approach to address the varying needs of preschooler. The school that is not only equipped with qualified human resources but also physical resources to aid the holistic development of your child. 

Being child-oriented and not task-oriented, the school records only positive achievements. Negative behaviour is managed not by recording them, but conveyed directly to parents followed by offering strategies on how to manage/modify such behaviour.

All children learn differently but one thing for sure, they must be provided with a conducive environment, passionate teachers, rich resources and collaborative parents.  Together, these can make a significant difference in a child with special needs.

Article contributed by Ms Margaret Nathen, Principal / Director of Divinity Kindergarten Pte Ltd