Your Preemie Is Starting Pre-School: 5 Things to Consider

August 22, 2014

Your Preemie in PKDuring our 44-day NICU stay, I used to dream of our preemie entering school, lunch pail in hand and confidently carrying his backpack. But to be honest, I wasn’t sure that day would ever come.

Fast forward four years and that day has come. Below are a few things we considered when choosing the right pre-school for him, and our family.

  1. The “howdy” factor. Does the school make you feel welcome? Do the directors and teachers share palpable enthusiasm for teaching children and are they excited about having your child, special needs and all? When we walked into our son’s preschool, I immediately felt like we were wanted, even after my additional pages that were attached to the application form under “medical history.” I figured if that didn’t scare them, we were starting off pretty well.
  2. The license. Is the school an accredited facility? We wanted a program that adhered to certain state requirements (vaccinations, educational standards, teacher qualifications, etc.) but that also focused on the well-being of our son, not just the academic rigors to prepare him for kindergarten.
  3. A spirit of camaraderie. Because our son had enough delays for us to be concerned but not so many that he qualified for public school-based therapy, we were in a tricky position. I needed to find a school that would work with his current therapy regimen—occupational/feeding, physical and speech—without being scared to take him on as a student. I knew when the director pointed out a spot on the playground and said, “it’s perfect for gross motor development,” that we had found a winner. She spoke my language.
  4. Rules were meant to be broken {sometimes}. Does the school see your child as an asset or a burden? When our son underwent brain surgery, we met with the school and talked about his needs following surgery. They were more than happy to remove certain toys from the playground to reduce the chance of injury. When potty training became a real challenge due to his kidney issues, they worked with us on a solution. Never once did they make our family feel like the “exception,” rather, the staff did everything possible to foster inclusion. That effort did not go unnoticed.
  5. Proactive approach. Before we even decided to attend the school, the director suggested we meet one-on-one with her and with our son’s prospective teachers to discuss concerns, therapies and other issues. That solid line of communication served us well throughout the year. We were a team, not independent players in our child’s education.

Whatever school environment you choose for your child, just do one very important thing: be honest with yourself and your child. Better to hold off on school, change programs or engage a specialist rather than make a certain school fit your current situation.

Raise a water bottle to a great school year for your preemie!