My son was diagnosed with high-functioning autism when he was 3. As we met with the school district and decided how to proceed with services, Head Start was recommended for him. At the time, he was in preschool two mornings a week and had limited expressive speech, was struggling with self-help skills, and expressed frustration in behavior and tantrums because he didn’t have the ability to put his feelings into words. He had a desire to play with other children, but didn’t know how to engage them or what to do when they engaged him. He often “stuck out”.
After he turned 4, he began attending Head Start. I remember discussing goals for him at the first home visit. I wanted him to be able to write his name, to learn to play with other children well, and to answer questions. He enjoyed school from the start, especially the structure the teachers put into the day. He enjoyed being around the other children and his teachers. I immediately started seeing growth in him. He learned to write his name within the first few months of school and he came home telling us the names of all his new friends.
His year in Head Start is about to end and I cannot express in words how grateful we are for this opportunity for our son. He has taken gigantic steps in his development and we attribute it mostly to the love and teaching he has received in Mrs. Goldfine’s classroom. It is nice for us to be able to reinforce such great teaching at home. The best day for me was when I dropped him off at school and as he walked into the classroom, I heard the other students exclaim, “Will!”, in their excitement to see him. I knew he was truly making friends. I don’t think he “sticks out” anymore and that is so wonderful for a parent of a child with special needs.
I cannot begin to list all the things he has learned this year, but here are a few: writing his name, coloring and holding crayons appropriately, pretend play, using words to express frustration, using words to take turns and ask for a turn, sharing, gross motor skills (climbing, running, throwing), fine motor skills (buttoning buttons, squeezing, holding pencils), answering “wh” questions, eye contact, refraining from self-stimulation (holding things in his hands), more boldness to try new things, making friends, greater independence (“I can do it myself, mom”), and an ability to go into new situations with confidence and peace.
A few days ago, I went to Kindergarten Roundup where the kindergarten teachers helped us know how to prepare our children for kindergarten. They told us what the students would be learning and what we could work on over the summer. It was the first time since our son was born that I could actually say he was ahead of the game. I walked away extremely encouraged and thanking God for Head Start. He truly has had a head start and it has made a huge difference not only in his education, but in our family life.
Christine Hoover, proud mom of Will