Preschool Open House-Hurray!

You would never hear me say this back when I was a teacher:

It’s almost time for school to start. Hurray!

This summer seemed like the longest one I’ve ever experienced. I liked school as a kid, but I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down when it was time to return to classes in the fall. And I certainly never wished away any summer days when I was teaching.

Back to school next week? Noooooooooooooo!

But now, as a parent, I felt different as Philip’s first year of preschool drew to a close. Back in May, I was anxious about the long summer that lay ahead. Philip had shown so much improvement in the few months since starting preschool that I feared the consequences of being out of that environment. On the other hand, we worried what might happen if we enrolled him in a summer preschool at a different site, with staff that Philip didn’t know and who didn’t know him, and with a forty-minute commute each way. Instead, I put together an assortment of activities that I hoped would meet some of his therapy, educational and socialization needs.

There were two full weeks after the end-of-year picnic before these activities. It was a struggle to get Philip out of bed, keep him regulated and out of trouble. Then starting in June, Philip went to his sensory needs class for eight weeks, had speech therapy once a week and enjoyed his weekly trips to the library with Grandma for story time. As a result, we saw some amazing progress: more babbling, improved receptive language, better self-care skills, a (mostly) consistent sleep schedule and a less dysregulated child.

Once August rolled around, the structured activities ended. While we tried to keep Philip on his sensory diet at home, both Peter and I have noticed that Philip has resorted to more spinning, his appetite has decreased, and he just seems a little off.

So, I’ll say it again:

It’s almost time for school to start. Hurray!

Last week, Philip’s teacher came for a home visit. While Philip seemed please to see Mrs. P and happily played with Mrs. W, her educational assistant, I’m sure I was ten times giddier about their visit.

We’re having a home visit. That means it’s almost time for school to start. Hurray!

I know I’m not the only parent that feels this way. Heck, I’m not even the stay-at-home spouse. But even for Peter, it’s not about having some time for himself. We both know that Philip has been thriving at school. We are also blessed that, unlike some autistics or children with Sensory Processing Disorder, Philip isn’t anxious about school. So far, going to and being at school is an enjoyable experience for him, not a source of stress, a minefield of confusing social interactions or a labyrinth of sensory overload.

There was potential for anxiety and stress this morning when we attended the open house at the preschool. Philip entered the school late last year, so we missed all of these beginning of the year rituals. During the home visit, Mrs. P let us know it was okay if we didn’t want to bring Philip, or if we had to leave suddenly because he became overwhelmed in a sea of adults and new classmates. All I could think was:

It’s time for the open house. That means school is about to start. Hurray!

I wanted Philip to at least try attending the open house. We would be going into a building with which he was familiar and had even been to over the summer. There would be a few familiar faces. Plus, Peter and I would be there to pick him up and hold him should he get nervous.

That’s why we loaded our box of school supplies and “About Me” poster (Note: one thing that hasn’t changed since I was a teacher is that I still hate making posters) into the car and drove Philip to school.

We hadn’t brought his backpack since we knew that Philip would not be experiencing the regular school day routines (sitting in a chair in the lobby upon arrival, walking to the room with the class, putting away his backpack, etc.). When we went inside, Philip kept trying to enter other classrooms. I thought he might have a tantrum before we made it to Mrs. P’s room at the end of the hall.

Turtles!

My worries were over when Philip pulled free of my hand and immediately went to look at the turtles. From that point on, Philip seemed comfortable making his way around the classroom. After intently examining the turtles and hamsters (creatures in which he showed no interest last school year), he grabbed a stencil and went to a table, looking around for crayons.

Mrs. W helps Philip by holding the stencil as he traces inside with a pencil

Philip did great. I think Peter was more anxious to get out of the crowded room than Philip. But Peter stifled his anti-social tendencies, put on his patient face and managed to enjoy watching Philip interact with the other kids, play with blocks and complete some basket activities.

The blocks were very popular

We stayed just over an hour. Philip had just finished another basket activity, and rather than have him start a new one, we decided to head home.

He was really into this basket

Philip will report to school next Wednesday for an orientation day. The day will follow the regular classroom routines, but only three other children will be present. This allows the staff to introduce/reintroduce procedures and assess the handful of students. Philip and all of his peers will begin attending classes full-time the Tuesday after Labor Day. You know what that means:

It’s almost time for school to start. Hurray!

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