Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sunnyside Sensory Preschool, End of Session 1

Leaving Early Intervention and having Olivia attend a private preschool was an experiment. Her small, lovely little program at Edwards was closing, and the preschoolers were being shuttled to different larger programs in various Elementary Schools around Portland. She was doing OK at Edwards, and she loved her teachers. But it was a delicate balance at times, and we were still struggling with a lot of basic things - potty training, counting, alphabets, shapes and colors. Going to a much larger school with a much larger class just scared us to death.
We were lucky that a couple of her teachers decided this was the time to try an experiment of their own. Could they create a better environment for socially struggling children on a much smaller scale, with the same services and typical peer interaction, and see more progress in these kids? So Sunnyside Sensory and Art Preschool was started, and Olivia started attending 4 days a week back in October.
And with the end of Fall session, it is time to assess.
Lets see. Olivia is suddenly potty-trained. She goes days without an accident, at school and now at home. This is still a shock for me. I was beginning to wonder if we would be going straight from pull-ups to Depends (TM) at some point. She started counting to 5 on her fingers, and just the other day, she counted to 10. And recognized the written numbers. She knows her colors. She sings the "ABC"s to me. She has prolonged reciprocal conversations with others. She talks about what she did at school that day. She talks about her friends, and no longer shuts down at drop-off. In fact, she only shows anxiety at pick-up if she was having fun and doesn't want to leave. Twice a week a teacher from MESD comes to her school to assist with speech, OT, and other items on her IFSP. And they too have noticed a change.
Oh joy! There are a multitude of factors I am sure that contribute to the Emergence of O, but nothing is more important than feeling safe, supported, and valued. So we got a winner, folks. Now, this is Preschool, and I have already started to receive a slew of letters from MESD and PPS gearing up for the transition of O from one to the other. My reaction to these letters is totally neurotic ("yeah, that's what you think, suckers. I will decide what goes on, when and where she does" - said loudly in the kitchen with my husband peering in asking if I am OK), but that doesn't change the reality of decisions to be made in the near future. But right now, one week before Christmas, I am happy and at peace.


  1. Oh oh oh! what a wonderful post! I'm so happy to hear O is doing so well.

  2. Kristin! I've been wondering how things are going for O (and you!). Glad to hear about her fantastic progress! D absolutely LOVES school with O, but has actually taken some huge steps backwards, and is basically not speaking intelligibly anymore. We just started seeing Dr G (your devel ped at Artz) and hope we can make some sense of things. I was interested to read about the OHSU Communication study - wonder if D would be eligible too...

    Happy holidays!

  3. That is the bit that always scares me, Susie. The almost inevitable step backwards. Delays, I can handle.

    Olivia had a set back last year, as you know, and we are still recovering from that - but we ARE recovering. Little steps. If you follow the link in the upper right corner, it will direct you to the OHSU study website.

    Happy Holidays and let's get together soon!

  4. Hi there, I stumbled upon your blog from web search looking for preschools for my 3 yo daughter. She was recently diagnosed with ASD, and we are waiting to have a meeting with Early Intervention but I want to get the ball rolling and look for preschools....Where is Sunnyside Sensory preschool? All I see online is a Sunnyside Montessori preschool. What do you think of Early Intervention preschools? Any advice is welcome!

  5. Sunnyside is over, sadly. It closed due to non-school related issues, and while we are very sad to see it go, I feel as if we got a lot out of it and feel lucky to have been a part of that environment.

    EI works. But how well it works is very dependent on the teachers in the classroom. My eldest was at Roseway Heights which had a lovely and impassioned teacher who enjoyed the challange and respected the kids. Olivia attended a small program at the old Edwards elementary school in SE (this program is closed now too), which was also full of loving teachers and aides who believed in these kids. I viewed the program at Penninsula Elementary in North Portland which also looked very good, and the teachers at Edwards recommended that as a similar environment full of art and light. Many of our friends headed to Capital Hill Elementary in SW after Edwards closed, and they have been very happy there.

    Talk to the teachers. Look at the classrooms. Are they, and the kids, and the rooms, full of light and joy? Is there art on the walls? Are the kids coated in paint and glitter? Believe it or not, these are all good signs. What academics are being offered? Some classes are about art and social interaction, some are focused on gearing the kids for the elementary school experience. Both have their advantages. Which one would more suit your daughter?

    Finally, how severely is she affected by her ASD? If she is fairly social (i.e. enjoys playing with her peers, can stay in social groups), and can communicate, then I would say she might be better suited for a typical Preschool that is open to children with different abilities. MESD will send a person to this school weekly to work with that child and teacher to make sure she is meeting IFSP goals. EI does not do the best job of preparing the children for Kindergarten, and maybe doing the first year in a contained EI class then moving when she is 4 to a typical preschool would be best. I wish I had done that with Olivia.

    Kindergarten really is the "New First Grade". They are doing amazing things in it. Half way through kindie is when things start to fall apart for a lot of mainstreamed EI kids. They come in fairly unprepared, then fall behind. Problems can start to creep in. It seems unfair to have this Kindie push, I wonder what we are racing through it for, but the PPS rep who had worked now with both my kids said that, overwhelmingly, EI kids are not prepared for the Kindergarten program. They are doing better then if they have had no EI, but it still is not enough. Ask the EI teachers what they think about how prepared the kids are.

    Did that help? Let me know if you want more info. I think I have a list of good preschools that work well with MESD somewhere, I can look for it!

  6. I just composed a very long reply that I somehow erased so I apologize if this might be disjointed...
    Thanks so much for your reply, any information helps! As I've discovered, navigating this ASD stuff is a full-time job and word-of-mouth from parents is the best source of information. She is fairly social, "high-functioning" and communicates okay. We were told by the eval team that she needs a very structured preschool; learning and anticipating a routine will help her with transitions and reduce meltdowns. The OT suggested Building Bridges school, but it is way beyond our financial ability.
    I'm sad about Edwards, we live right down the street from it. That would've been nice. I joined PDXAsperger' and had a lot of suggestions about SW Portland. I'd prefer sticking to SE. HEad Start was recommended by several folks, but is it a quality program? That would be a relief as they are experienced and serve kids with disabilities.
    If you happen to have any names of preschools willing to work with MESD I'd very much appreciate it.
    Do you participate in any ASD parent groups? I've only been able to find one that meets at Kaiser, PDXAsperger's group. This autism stuff is incredibly overwhelming, from preschools to therapists to parent training,etc. My head is spinning.
    Thanks for taking the time to respond to a total stranger!! I am desperate to find other parents dealing with the same issues. Sigh.

  7. We have so many friends in SE that we made at Edwards, and many of them are searching for a preschool option now that Sunnyside is gone. I know they have advice, opinions and observations from visiting alternatives. Will send out a request to share!

    It is so frustrating. And crazy, and just plain stupid at times. Screw book clubs - we need a kvetch club! Is Korin out there? I know you want to start one too!

    I don't know much about Headstart programs. And there are of programs like Building Bridges, the Victory Academy, and the School of Autism that contain parents' doubt and guilt - for a price.

    Structure was key for my son. EI can provide that, but it can depend on the teacher. I will get more info from the SE-connections.

    Amy Alexander's Preschool of the Arts on Hawthorne was recommended by our EI time when Edwards closed. There is one...more to come...