By Nicole Matheson
A lifelong journey begins with a small step, and at Lake Havasu Unified School District’s Developmental Preschool at Smoketree Elementary, children take that step in their first introduction to school.
Emphasizing the care of children with special needs, this preschool offers 3- and 4-year-olds a safe place to explore their individuality, meet friends and become accustomed to working with a teacher as well as other students. This foundation of skills prepares children for kindergarten and beyond. For those who may have learning disabilities, this head start is crucial in setting them up for success later on in life.
Reverse Mainstream Program
The Developmental Preschool has been in place for more than 20 years, and is the only one of its kind within the school district in Havasu.
It is a reverse mainstream program, which means that young students with various abilities, disabilities and cognitive skills all work together in the same classroom, learning from each other as well as from their well-qualified teachers.
RiverScene Magazine visited the school for a morning session of fun and learning with office manager Jessica Miller and preschool coordinator Carolyn Alexander.
“At this age, it’s all about learning how to interact and socializing,” Miller said, and the reverse mainstream style lends itself well to this goal for the youngsters, who learn to get along with others who may have varying social experiences and capabilities. As many parents know, introducing young children to socialization early in the growth process can be a distinct advantage when entering a classroom environment. Alexander agreed, and when asked how such learning is accomplished, she replied that, “Play is the best way to get so much.”
But how does a child learn from play?
“There’s different types of play that we use. There’s dramatic play, outside play, group times, one on one time…” Miller lists just a few of their methods of teaching. The school follows a curriculum focused on early childhood through the Department of Education and they are licensed by the state.
This includes play-based learning for the children, who occupy three classrooms, all decorated to fit the theme of the current learning objective. Right now the tiny students are discovering what is special about themselves and practicing self-acceptance.
“It’s all about the kids and who they are,” Miller explained. But it’s not all so serious as the excited tots make a slime concoction while the grown ups chat. Their enjoyment can be heard as they complete this activity and move on to dancing.
Early Intervention And Screening
While attending this preschool, children have access to speech, occupational and physical therapies if needed. Scholarships are available to those who qualify, and the school also may arrange Child Find screenings to identify children with special needs or developmental delays.
Early intervention is key to set children on the right path and screening is also offered to infants (0-3 years old). The best place to start with questions regarding tuition, scholarships or screening for possible learning disabilities is to contact the school directly at 928-505-6033.