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The school for high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorder

Preschool

Research has shown that early intervention is the key to engaging children with autism spectrum disorder so that they can fully develop their capabilities. 

Our preschool classes are divided into two groups: Early Childhood Development 1 and 2.

In Early Childhood Development (ECD), children learn to work in small groups and follow simple instructions. While the focus is on language, interaction, imitation and self-help skills, children also learn pre-academic skills that are important to transitioning to the next level.

Early Childhood Development 1

These entry-level classes each have four children with a teacher and a full time assistant. Most children in this group are 2 or 3 years old. They learn to work in small groups and follow simple instructions. The focus of ECD 1 is language, imitation, interaction and self-help skills. Various methods are used to encourage and elicit spoken language.

Language: The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is combined with words, objects and signs. Songs, puppets, finger plays and felt board stories are used to help expand the attention of these young children.

Interaction: Children learn through play; however, young children who are experiencing delays often lack the interest or skills to play appropriately with toys or to interact with other children. The teachers devise simple play situations (pushing cars or rolling balls back and forth, finger painting together or holding hands to play “Ring Around the Rosy”).

Imitation: To imitate is to learn. Actions to songs and imitating motor movements and sounds are practiced throughout the day. Children are rewarded with praise for imitation attempts.

Self-help: Children as young as two learn the importance of independence. Potty training and eating, drinking and dressing skills are part of the daily program. Children are given the opportunity to make choices throughout their daily activities, learning to make decisions about things that will affect them.

 

Early Childhood Development 2

There are four groups that comprise the Early Childhood Development 2 classes.  Each group contains five children with a teacher and a full-time assistant. The children are generally 3 or 4 years old and are grouped by social skills and receptive/expressive language abilities. They begin each day with their “home room” teacher. After the day’s opening activities, the classes move each half-hour to specialty teachers for pre-academic, group language, gross motor skills and social/play skills. In all classes teachers encourage children to develop self-regulation, attending skills, and joint attention through theme-based learning and field trips. Teachers also focus on basic classroom skills such as sharing the attention of the teachers, raising hands, being part of a group, and class participation.

Pre-academics: Emphasis is placed on development of fine motor skills including using a writing utensil without a fisted grip, copying simple forms (such as lines and circles), placing scissors on hands properly and using them to cut paper, and manipulating string for lacing and stringing beads.   Pre-academic skills such as number recognition, one-to-one correspondence, sorting, colors, shapes, and basic math vocabulary are taught as well.

Social skills: Focus in social skills class is directed toward exposing children to experiences that will lead to a greater understanding of social expectations.  Students engage in a variety of teacher-facilitated play activities, including pretend play, storytelling, role playing social routines (birthday parties, Halloween, etc.), and floor play to encourage group participation and interaction.  Emphasis is placed on development of appropriate peer interactions.

Language Skills:  Emphasis in this class is placed on expanding and contextualizing language within reciprocal social interactions.  Both expressive language abilities (including labeling, describing, and comparing/contrasting) and receptive language abilities (including identifying, matching, and sorting) are a focus of this theme-based class. 

Motor Skills:  Motor skills class occurs in our motor lab, where instruction is focused on development of gross motor skills, motor planning, turn taking, and teamwork.  Students engage in a variety of activities such as climbing, swinging, jumping, obstacle courses, and movement to music.