Typical preschool settings are often not the best first learning environment for young children with cognitive differences and a propensity to become overwhelmed by too much sensory input.
At Behavior Matters The simple play tasks of learning to roll a ball back and forth, using blocks to build a tower, and chilling out to have a snack or take a nap and turning around in response to hearing one’s name called are frequently are a challenge to master for children uses brains aren’t wired the same as their neuro-typical peers.
“For our children with autism, those typical basic preschool skills do not come naturally,” Beckee Edge, owner of Behavior Matters Therapeutic Services and S.T.A.G.E.S. of Learning Center Day School and Preschool in Eagle River, explained. “We know from brain research, that the brain is more malleable when we are young. So the earlier we start with play skills and other skills, the more likely these things are to remain with them through their life and the more likely they are going to be able to overcome many of the challenges that autistic children face.”
An evidence-based learning program is one in which continual data collection of the child’s response to lessons is collected as a tool to evaluate what approaches are working to move the child’s abilities and behavior toward set goals.
The beauty of evidence-based instruction as used at the special needs preschool that began last fall is that it works just as effectively for children that do not experience cognitive differences from typical peers.
It is a message Edge is now working to get out to parents in the local area.
One of her dreams is the active use of the “inclusion” concept in which children with and without cognitive differences learns together within the same classroom.
The preschool at Behavior Matters located just behind the Tesoro convenience and fuel store in Eagle River is just the place for that to happen, Edge said. The preschool practices peer assisted learning.
“For a parent that is looking for their child to learn about empathy and the acceptance of others while learning skills that will help him or her, this is a great program,” Edge said. “Our preschool is run like a traditional preschool with all of the same activities. Yet, what we are doing here is building an inclusive community. The earlier we teach our children to be accepting of one another, the better our society is going to be.”
Edge invites the community to an open house on Sat., April 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to learn first-hand about the preschool and other services such as speech therapy and day school that are offered at Behavior Matters.