I talk to so many parents about getting ready for new school environments for their kids with limb differences. Since Jordan is almost eight, I’ve really focused on how to prepare for Kindergarten and years after that. But I have older posts here on Born Just Right that talk about Jordan’s experience in preschool. I recently talked to a mom who was looking for preschool tips and I realized I wrote it a while ago and my tips aren’t as easy to find as some other topics.
Here’s our preschool story: Jordan started out in a childcare program that worked with babies all the way through pre-kindergarten. It was the same school her brother attended and I wan’t ready to go somewhere different when Jordan was first born. I needed to be around parents and teachers I knew. But by the time Jordan was two and a half, I was ready to find a school that better fit her needs and personality. It was a big decision and it happened in December of 2008. (Seriously? Five years ago? Yikes.)
Here are some tips I’ve learned sending Jordan to preschool:
1. Be ready for all kinds of questions. Preschoolers are not mean. They are curious and some times they may be scared to see a person who is different. The questions will happen the first time you bring your child into the classroom. I took Jordan to her new school and sat with her a couple of times before she officially attended the class.
2. Set boundaries with the teachers and school director ahead of time. Make sure they know it is not okay to grab a little arm or little leg without asking. Everyone deserves personal space. But make sure you talk to your child about how kids may ask to hold a little arm or leg and it is up to your child to say yes or no.
3. Make sure the school knows you are willing and able to answer questions. You can provide resources and help the other kids and parents learn about your child’s difference. If there is a child having trouble or scared, you can help his or her parents better explain that everyone is different and sometimes some people look different. Finding Nemo continues to be an amazing example of a limb difference. Thank goodness it returned to the movie theaters.
4. Your child may not know what to say when a child asks a question about his or her difference. And that is okay. Jordan and I talked about how she was born with one hand once kids started asking. When I heard her say, “I don’t know,” we talked more about it at home away from the other pressures of a new environment.
5. Pick out a book about differences that you can share with the class. I would make sure it’s a book you’ve read many times with your child ahead of time so he or she can feel super proud that his or her book is the focus of the conversation. We used Harry and Willy and Carrothead and The Making of My Special Hand when Jordan started in her new preschool. She was super proud of her books.
5. If you have prosthetics or orthotics, you can pass them around so kids can ask questions and check them out. Once again, Jordan was very proud to share her arm and many different hands.
6. It’s going to be awesome. I promise. Your child will learn so much at school and just think of how much his or her friends and teachers will learn when they see your one-handed push beyond all expectations.
At the end of Jordan’s preschool experience, I asked a local photographer, Rebecca Allen, to document a day in the life of Jordan at school. It showed me moments I would have never known about. Like when she was helping smaller kids get their shoes on. For real. Preschool is special.