The first one I'm tackling is mainstreaming. The question I've heard and been asked myself is if Butters is mainstreamed. Basically the term mainstream refers to having a child in a normal classroom or activities.
For us the decision has been easy for the moment. Right now Butters is in a special needs preschool through our local elementary school and in a mainstream gymnastics class at The Little Gym.
In preschool he works on a variety of things such as social, fine and gross motor skills, speech and basic language. During the 2.5 hours he is there Monday through Thursday it looks like a typical class room. They have free play, station tables, circle time, snack time, all of the things you would find in a normal classroom. The difference with his classroom is that there is one teacher and 2 assistants with 10 kids. There is also a speech pathologist and occupational/physical therapist that come in a couple of times a week and help kids with very specific tasks. After his first week he was coming home singing parts of songs and very happy overall. Also the teaching staff has been great. They answer emails and keep us updated with what they are doing in the classroom.
At the gym he works on gross motor skills and socialization. One of the things they do at the gym is encourage him to work with the other kids and be part of the group. He works also on how exactly to interact with other kids his age. They make it ok for him to wander at times but always ask him to come back to the group and praise him when he does return and work with the other kids and instructors. He will even be going to camps a couple of times a week this summer to continue to work on things.
One thing I have to say about the gym is we absolutely love the staff. He has gone to both a gym in Alabama before we moved and the gym in our current town. Both locations have been trained in autism and understand how these kids act. Its been very important for us to get him active and involved with a program that understands his quirks and works on a variety of things. The gyms have been wonderful not only for him but also Peanut. She has been going a little longer than he has (due to the seizure incident) and also loves it.
So this is our approach to mainstreaming right now. I feel that he is doing great in a mainstream gym setting and special education classroom for preschool. For him its probably the best of both sides and will help him progress over the remainder of the school year and into the summer.