Trying to find a therapeutic preschool program for a child with autism can be a stressful task. A parent wants to make sure that the program is not only a fit for their child, but that their child is also receiving the services they need. This process can be rather intimidating and tedious, so here are some tips to help you start the process!
Finding a program in your area
If you’re not quite sure if there are therapeutic programs in your area, your child’s pediatrician, current therapist, or other parents may be able to provide insight. All of these resources should have a good idea of what’s available. However, when looking into therapeutic preschools, don’t just rely on the advice of others. Do your own research on schools around you. Look at the criteria for each school and the services they provide. It is important to determine whether the program provides services that address the unique learning style and needs of your little one.
Preview the programs
Once you have researched programs and identified your top choices, start scheduling appointments to see the schools. Sometimes, you and your child can even schedule a “practice” day, where your child can participate in the classroom as you watch. This is a great experience because you can see how your child interacts with the staff and other children in the classroom. When touring the school, there are a few things to consider as you observe.
First, ask about class size and the ratio of teachers to children. It is generally best if the class size is smaller (about 3 students per teacher), so that your child can receive services in a more intimate group setting. Don’t worry, they will still have plenty of opportunities to interact with their classmates!
Also ask how their curriculum will help your child meet developmental milestones, including specific individual goals (in areas where they experience challenges or delays). These might include social play, control of emotions, language skills, familiarity with numbers and letters, science, art, and physical development.
During your visit, observe the structure of the classroom. Look to see whether they implement visual schedules, a variety of activities, and or provide support with transitions. All of these skills are particularly important for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Also ask the instructors whether they work with children to build self-help skills, play skills, and social skills.
Most importantly, go with your gut feeling. Do you feel like the teachers are actively engaging students and that the children are enjoying their day in the program? Ultimately, the decision should come down to which program would allow your child to make the greatest gains. If you have a feeling that you or your child would be uncomfortable in a specific preschool program, take it off of your list.
If you are looking for a therapeutic preschool in the Chicago area, click the purple button below or contact CST Academy at 773-620-7800 to learn more about the wide range of services we offer for children. We offer ABA therapy, feeding therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.