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Pros and Cons Of Preschool Disabilities Program: Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids

By Sylvia Rimm

Q. My daughter is 4 years old. She's been tested for speech problems and qualifies to attend a preschool disabilities program offered through our local school district. During her testing, when she was only 3-and-a-half, she was found to have other skills of a 5-and-a-half-year-old.

She's very polite, well-mannered, compassionate and smart. My daughter's currently working with a speech therapist twice a week and attends a regular preschool program twice a week. I'm considering enrolling her in the preschool disabilities program next year, but I have some concerns. In your opinion, is speech enough of a factor to place her in this type of program? The teachers are interested in having her in the class because they think she would be a positive role model for the other children, but I don't want to hinder her progress emotionally or educationally. Her speech is such that she's understandable, but it requires effort from the listener. I don't know whether to send her to a regular preschool program and continue with speech classes, or enroll her in the disabilities program. I would greatly appreciate your opinion.

A. Next year will be your daughter's last year before kindergarten and an important year for improving her speech so that it doesn't mask her other high abilities when she becomes a kindergartner. It's important to give her the optimum amount of time with a speech therapist, as well as giving her the opportunity to interact with children whom she'll be meeting again in kindergarten.

In order for you to make your decision, I suggest you find out whether she'll get more, less, or the same amount of time for speech therapy if she goes to the special education class. Also, you'll want to know if some of the children in the special education class are bright enough to challenge her and engage in learning with her, or if these children are mainly below average in their abilities and receiving compensatory help. While it's good for her to be a role model for others, it's also important for her to have some intellectual peers. There's an advantage to her going to preschool five mornings a week, in that she gets plenty of time to practice the new speech skills with others.

One final question you need to ask yourself is about finances. If the special education class looks reasonably good, and the cost of her preschool is uncomfortable, finances can certainly swing the decision one way or another.

Hopefully, your responses to my questions can help you to make a better decision for your daughter.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com.

Categories: Pre-Schoolers, Children,

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