When Andre, a preschooler with Down syndrome and delayed communication skills, was struggling with outbursts and uncooperative behavior at his Head Start preschool program, his teachers turned to the Inclusion Program for support.
First 5 Contra Costa allocates $330,000 to the Inclusion Program, which is run by the Contra Costa Child Care Council and helps children with special needs succeed in typical child care settings. In the program, Inclusion Facilitators visit children in their child care setting and provide coaching, training, and specialized equipment for teachers. Parents also receive support to ensure consistency between home and early care settings.
Although Andre had attended programs for children with special needs, this was his first experience in a typical preschool setting. Routines like circle time and lining up and social skills like sharing were new and overwhelming to both Andre and his teachers. As a result, Andre would throw objects or knock them off the shelf, lie down in the middle of circle time, or simply not listen.
“It was very important that Andre attend a typical preschool, and without the Inclusion Program, he wouldn’t be able to,” said Julissa, Andre’s mom. “The teachers really responded to the strategies my Inclusion Facilitator Joanne suggested.”
New strategies for Andre included starting school later in the afternoon so he was well-rested after nap time and using a cube chair to help him participate appropriately during circle time and table activities. Perhaps the most successful strategy was when teachers began using visual cues to communicate with Andre. For example, now when it’s time to wash hands or sit in circle time, the teachers show Andre a photo depicting the activity.
“The visual cues have helped so much. Now Andre understands what to expect. With some redirection from the teachers, he’s no longer throwing himself on the floor,” said Julissa. “Andre has learned to be interactive, just like all children must learn. This will be so important when he starts kindergarten.”
Andre’s teachers report that these strategies have helped. Andre’s expressive language is improving, the tantrums have waned, and he’s happier now going to school. The children greet him when he arrives and he responds with hugs for his peers and teachers.
Last year, the Inclusion program assisted 101 children at over 50 child care sites in Contra Costa County.
To make a referral or learn more about the Inclusion Program, contact: (925) 676-5442 ext. 3113.