preschool aged child with Down Syndrome and details about homeschool

It’s no secret that we homeschool our children, but when the topic of Cedar comes up with most professionals, we are routinely advised that all state early intervention services will stop on his 3rd birthday. The answer to this, for the majority, is that your child needs to be enrolled in the school system to maintain services (speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy) as per an IEP or other specialized plan. But what about preschool and Down Syndrome? This is about one mom’s decision to homeschool.

I am a firm believer that each of us moms needs to be empowered to make the choice that best suits our own family dynamic. That being said, I have found that many moms are intimidated by the thought of sending their child with Down syndrome off to preschool, but they may also be intimidated by the thought of any alternative. I share our journey for those moms so they know there are options out there.

First of all, you don’t have to be a special needs certified teacher to teach your child at home. You also don’t have to have a teaching degree to homeschool. I believe that though I can certainly learn from teachers when it comes to different techniques and ways to engage a learner, but ultimately, I know my son better than any teacher can because I am with him more.

Our family has chosen to homeschool and Cedar’s education will be done in the same environment as my other children. What does that mean for his need for speech, occupational, and physical therapy? We will seek out these services via outpatient therapy and continue to use the techniques we learn on a daily basis when interacting with him at home.

So, how will preschool work? I am already approaching this as I have done with Cedar’s brothers who are 7 and 5, through play. We have recently been focusing on opposites. I shared on our Instagram account that we filled a bowl with hot water and one with cold and each time Cedar put his hand in one of the bowls I would say “hot” and sign the word and the same for when he touched the “‘cold” water. He loved the interactive plan and we were introducing the concept of opposites. He now knows the sign for “hot” when he doesn’t feel that his morning eggs are the right temperature.

Over the years of homeschooling I have found that the first few years of school (early elementary) are really just about learning through play and grasping concepts that will be built on later (math, spelling, etc) I want my children to enjoy learning and I realize that not every child progresses at the same pace. That is invaluable information as I begin to work with Cedar.

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Know that if you want to look into the idea of homeschooling preschool the idea is that you are laying the foundation for later learning. When typical children to go preschool they are learning foundations (colors, shapes, letters, numbers, learning to interact with others and learning to sit for extended periods of time) for the future. This looks different for each child but our children need exposure to different environments and different learning opportunities. This is actually simpler than it sounds, and there are a number of great sites to give you ideas such as Preschool to Plato that I routinely get ideas from.

For example, if you take your preschool aged child to a fast food play area, they are learning first hand about interaction with others, this is the same that they learn if you are involved in any mommy and me groups or your church children’s programs. When you visit locations point out things you see, the red slide, the green grass. Expose your child to concepts like hot/cold, up/down, over/under. If they like television ensure that it is educational like sesame street, baby signing times, super simple songs where they can hear rhyming and see opposites, colors and shapes presented. This isn’t as hard as it sounds and you absolutely do not need a formal curriculum for preschool/kindergarten.

If you choose to homeschool, do keep involved in outpatient therapy as needed so that your child still has the added benefit of interacting with a therapist in the areas that he/she requires more help in. Then tell the therapist you would like “assignments” to work on through the week that you can incorporate into your time with your child.

I share this information so that moms know there are other options if they are not ready for their child to head off to school, or if they are truly considering homeschool as a viable option for educating their child with Down Syndrome. I have now graduated 1 child (typically developing) and I have 5 more to go, including Cedar. This was the best decision we ever made and I do have something to compare it to because we had our children in public school for a time before making the switch. It can be done, even with Down Syndrome and you can do it.

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