We marked Head Start off our list early. The location of the program is a bit of a drive and would require a lot of flexibility at work, or a bus ride for Claire. I'm not ok putting a non-verbal two year old on a bus, so that was out.
Next to be scratched off our list was our church preschool/daycare. I approached them before Claire's first birthday to see about her attending daycare there. I told them she wouldn't be walking by then (a requirement), and wanted to know if there were any exceptions that could be made. I was told they checked with the state and that nothing could be done. Maybe they checked, maybe they didn't. All I know is that the daycare we have Claire in now quickly found a way for her to be in the toddler room with her peers even though she wasn't walking. Which leads me to assume (dangerous, I know) that they just didn't want to be bothered by Claire's "needs" and this was the easiest way to get out of her being there. If a program can't put forth a little extra effort for my child, I don't want her there.
This left us with two options. The in district half day preschool program, and an out of district (private) all day preschool/daycare option.
The out of district school is where we would eventually like Claire to go, but we decided against their preschool program for now. First of all, she would have to start this fall, at two and a half, to be guaranteed a spot. Second, it's a bit of a drive, about 20 minutes. I can do that with my work schedule, but it does add a little extra crazy to our morning. The biggest drawback for me with this preschool was the room itself. The preschool room is SMALL. Probably a third of the size of the daycare room she's in now. Add in all the preschool stations, almost double the number of kids she's used to (some of them easily twice her size), and I see her being totally overwhelmed. Also, while there is supposed to be a nap/quiet time in the afternoons, I don't see the one small room ever really getting quiet enough for her to nap well. And a good nap is essential for all of our well being. In addition to all of that, the daycare will also take siblings to age 12 after school, adding more big kids to an already crowded small room.
The in district option has quite a few advantages, at least for this first preschool year. First, she can transition at three. They will guarantee her a morning spot, which will leave her afternoons open for the all important nap. There are five classrooms, and while it is a mixed age group (bigger kids) the rooms are large enough that I'm confident she can find a quiet spot if she needs to decompress for a bit. She'll also be in the same town as me. If something comes up, I'll be five minutes away, instead of 25 minutes away.
My one concern about this preschool, which will be addressed, is that when I visited, the classroom I was shown seemed to have a lot of children with special needs in it. Of course, this was the room that was recommended for Claire. It was presented as the choice for her as there is usually an aide there and that the teacher knows some sign (which is good), however I will not have her placed in that room *because* she has Down syndrome. When I visited there were eight children in the room (the other small group of eight was in another room for a project), and 3 or 4 of them had noticeable special needs. I am concerned that this room has become the unofficial "special ed" preschool class.
Now that the where has been decided, we are focusing on the when. Claire could start preschool at two and and half. I would prefer she start at three, but we will also be changing daycare (her center only goes to age 3), and I want to space the changes out so we don't have new daycare and preschool dropped on her all at once. We have begun the daycare search, and I hope to have her settled someplace new this summer, so that she can start preschool after the winter break.
The next daunting task is the IEP...