Time is really beginning to fly around here. Jelly Belly turned 11 months old today, and I can hardly believe she'll be one in a month. One month after that, Moe will turn 3.
Moe's third birthday is a big deal. For one thing, it means that it will be one year since his diagnosis. It will certainly be a time for reflection on our journey through early intervention, how far we've come, and where we are headed. In more concrete terms, it means Moe ages out of Early Start services through the Regional Center (RC), and we'll have some decisions to make.
In California, once a child turns three many services become the responsibility of the school districts (SD) to provide. In April, he'll have his exit assessments from his current service providers and his entrance assessments for the school district. His new services will begin June 1.
In our district, which has a good reputation for special education services, all of the preschool classes are at one campus nearby. Once we know which class he'll qualify for (and I'm sure he'll qualify, at the very least under speech & language delays), we'll go observe a class. The change from RC to SD is a tricky one, because the SD only needs to provide services that will affect him from an educational perspective, whereas the RC is family focused, and responsible for the development of the whole child.
If we don't like what we see from the SD, or don't think it is enough, we of course have the option to find services privately. We can then pay out of pocket or try to get insurance reimbursement. (The latter is going to be difficult with our current insurance, but we're hopeful that new regulations under health care reform are going to force more insurance companies to cover autism services.) To that end, I've been researching our options for private preschools with autism programs. We're going to visit one on Wednesday.
The decision to send Moe to a special school would be tough. Not only will it be expensive, but I was really hoping he would be ready to go to a regular preschool, perhaps with an aide. But he is clearly not ready for that. I'm concerned he could get lost in the public program if he doesn't have one on one attention. He may learn to go with the flow, but I want to make sure we're bringing out all of his potential. These years leading up to kindergarten are crucial.
My best guess right now is that he'll go to the local preschool, hopefully 4-5 half days a week. He'll probably also get some speech services through the district. Then we'll likely supplement with social groups and possibly some additional one on one therapy, including some kind of ABA, extra speech and maybe OT. Our long term goal, of course, is that he's in a regular school (public or private) with typical kids, but we'll do whatever we need to do, one step at a time.
Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian.