Whenever Laurie Bates steps out of her BOCES preschool class, she is reminded that early intervention works.
She sees it in the face of one of her former students now attending class in his home school district of Hudson Falls, in the same building where her special education group is located.
“I see him all the time in the hall,” said Mrs. Bates proudly. “He’s in a self-contained special ed classroom, but he is back at the home school because he got early intervention.”
That early intervention helps students who are hindered by speech delays, physical delays, Down's syndrome or who are on the autism spectrum. Bates, as well as Karen Turcotte in Warrensburg, helps the students over their personal hurdles through an intensive, but fun learning environment.
“We have a very busy class,” said Mrs. Bates who has 33 years in the classroom – 27 in preschool. “We work a lot on letters, their sounds, counting and helping them with social skills. We do it through songs and games.”
The students also benefit from a strong support staff that is available to them: speech, occupational and physical therapies, as well as counselors. With the help of dedicated parents, these three- and four-year-olds overcome many obstacles, including social ones.
“We have one little girl who didn’t know how to hug when she came to us,” said Mrs. Bates. “Now she is one of our best huggers.”
The full, five-day a week schedule for the children is rather rigorous. It fulfills the new Common Core preschool standards in math and ELA, while giving the children a chance to sing and play.
At group time, they sing alphabet and counting songs. They peek out of the window to report the weather and then create a bar graph reflecting that.
They also sing about the days of the week, walk the circle to greet each other and read several books that highlight the “letter of the week.”
“We’ll do one letter a week,” said Mrs. Bates who displays each letter and the words they spell in various pictures throughout the classroom. “By the end of the year, they will recognize them all. They will also learn what an author is, what an illustrator is and what a title page is. We want to get them familiar with books.”
After group time, the children divide up at tables where they continue to reinforce letters and numbers with group and self-directed projects in art and science. They also learn a lot by playing with toys and blocks. Mrs. Bates has a basket for each letter, ie airplanes and alligators are in the A basket. They also have time for daily outdoor play and rest.
“I enjoy it because my class is different every year,” said Mrs. Bates. “And I know how effective we have been because the districts are pleased. They see how much independence the children gain and how well-rounded they become in our preschool. They might not become a straight A students, but they learn a lot including how to be kind and cooperative.”