I've had several people ask questions about school/transportation specifics, so here are all the details of our preschool program:
Bridget turned three in July, and we were required to transition from Early Intervention services to our local city school district on her birthday. She recently began attending preschool in one of our local elementary school buildings (it happens to be our 'home" school, where all the kids have gone--and where Brian and Emmy are still). She is in school Monday- Thursday from 8:40-11:15 AM, and gets all of her "therapy" (80 minutes a week of OT, PT and speech) within the school day.
The program has a typical preschool curriculum and classroom set-up. Our other children went to a private community preschool (this program was not around when they were preschool age), but the class, routines, and classroom environment all seem very similar. The classroom is filled with toys (dolls, kitchen, dress-up, trucks, blocks), books, building materials, arts and crafts supplies...all the stuff you'd expect to find in a preschool classroom. There are also a few additional things, like special supportive chairs, picture labels on most objects, and special tools--like a wider variety of writing instruments--that are available in the room.
She's in a class with 6 other children at this point. Two other kids are on IEPs right now. The class has room for 12 students, 6 with IEPs and 6 without (typically developing peers). I think this is pretty common, as I've read several other blogs (from a variety of states) which have described a very similar set-up. (For anyone interested in the process of transition from EI to the school system, go here for a previous post that might be of interest.)
Bridget has one main teacher and two paraprofessionals in the classroom. Her OT, PT and SLP all work with each of the kids in the class who need those services. Almost all of her "therapy" takes place in the classroom within the course of a typical school day. Her classroom teacher and aids are all aware of Bridget's IEP and place a little extra focus on her specific goals in any work they do with her (in play, or during art time, recess, etc.). The way they've described it, it sounds very much like what we have already been doing at home: going about normal life, while recognizing appropriate times to reinforce a particular skill or approach.
About the bus: Bridget rides a bus specially outfitted for young children and kids with particular needs (wheelchairs, etc.). You can see in previous photos that Bridget is strapped into a five-point harness (part of the bus equipment, not ours). She seems to be very comfortable and safe in it! She has a bus driver and an aid who rides along with the kids. The bus is specifically for preschoolers. Only the kids on IEPs are able to ride the bus, so there is just one other little girl who rides the bus with Bridget. The ride to the school, even with one other stop, is about 6 minutes.
I was able to meet the driver and see the bus (in addition to being able to follow the bus on its route) as soon as the school year started. If I would've had any sense that it was not an ideal situation, I would have taken her myself! I was really worried about the bus. It turns out that (1) I had no reason to worry and (2) it is much more convenient and (3) she is really starting to enjoy it!
This is the end of our second week in school, and Bridget is doing great! She is getting on the bus happily and comes home happy. She's not even particularly tired when she gets home, which is a little bit surprising to me. But, I should know by now to expect surprises daily with my little-big girl.
The sun is shining, school is back in session, and my beautiful, sweet Bridget is thriving. Life is good...