In The Words of Our Parents
“Andres was almost three and we knew something wasn’t right,” recalls Amy. He was in Early Intervention getting speech therapy twice a week and starting to say a few words, but the social aspect wasn’t there at all. There was some kind of communication disconnect. It was very worrisome and frustrating because I didn’t know how to reach him. If I tried to talk to him, he wouldn’t acknowledge me. I’d say, ‘Andres, look!” and he wouldn’t look unless I took his face and pointed it toward something. We’d go to the playground and he wouldn’t be able to make friends with other children his age because he didn’t communicate with them. He wasn’t making those kinds of connections – and now he is.”
In fact, Andres is now in a talented and gifted kindergarten class in a New York City public school, where, his teacher says, he makes friends easily, is cooperative and considerate and excels at reading and chess.
“He’s your typical over-scheduled New York kid,” smiles Amy, who attributes his transformation to the year he spent in the New York Center for Child Development’s pre-school for children with special needs.
“It was a year of one-on-one and learning very basic skills,” she explains. “At New York Center the teachers are trained to work with children with special needs. They understand their problems and the roots of their problems. They’re very caring and professional. It’s a close-knit community, but, also, a structured environment with a high ratio of adults to children. You go into those classrooms and they have a head teacher with two assistants and a therapist for twelve children, so they can really work with each one.”
Amy saw dramatic improvements in Andres’ behavior within his first month at New York Center.
“His speech became better. He was saying meaningful things and communicating his needs and wants. By the end of the year, you could have a conversation with him. He would tell you what he’d done at school and was able to ask and answer questions. He could also do preschool academic things, like he knew his letters and could write them out. The experience did wonders for him.”
Most of all, she believes it set him on the right path socially.
“Looking back, I realize that so much of early childhood education is social understanding. Because he had social delays, Andres didn’t understand that he was supposed to be participating; it wasn’t that he wasn’t cooperating, it just didn’t compute. At New York Center they do a lot of work in groups. Everybody gets a turn, everybody’s heard and everybody’s important, but it’s a group activity and you have to take part in it. They work at that and they have a lot of adults to keep everything going so everyone participates. They direct the children and, gradually, they pick it up.”
“I feel like Andres has a huge advantage now that he didn’t have before,” Amy concludes. “He was always a smart and loving kid, but if I had sent him to a traditional preschool, all he would have been was a disruption and a behavior problem. He wouldn’t have been able to sit still, pay attention and handle the social give-and-take of a school day. New York Center set him on the right path right from the beginning and it’s going to be a smoother road for him all down the line, that’s for sure.”
Andres graduated from New York Center in 2007 and is now in a New York City public school kindergarten classroom for gifted and talented children.