Well River has been at preschool for four weeks now, so it seems like a good time to write a new blog entry.
Things are going very well! River is managing the full three-hour session, which has surprised everybody as we all thought he would need a much more gradual introductory period and would maybe manage half an hour for a couple of weeks, then build up to an hour etc- but almost from the very beginning he has lasted the whole time. He has also bonded really well with his 1:1 support, who is really lovely & definitely the best person for River. He's managing to sit at the table with the other kids for snack time, and hasn't felt the need to grab any other kid's faces for a while!
There are definitely things that have been crucial in this happening.
Firstly, I have been by his side for the first 5 or 6 sessions. During the completely alien experience of being a preschool, he always knew he was safe because I was right there. This is soooo massively important to children like River. This has meant that he has managed to get to know his 1:1 support whilst still having me in the background. Getting to know new grown-ups is a big deal for River; most children will recognise a friendly face, someone smiling at them, saying nice things to them and speaking in a calm & caring tone. Whereas River doesn't understand facial expressions, he doesn't understand much language and he doesn't understand tone of voice- which makes new people quite scary for him. So having me there has helped tremendously with this process.
Secondly, the fact that he has 1:1 support is vital. All these crazy kids being noisy and running around, and yet in the midst of it is one person who is always by his side, always encouraging him to interact, and who has now learnt his likes & dislikes, his limits, & how to prevent certain situations occuring. I dread to think what would happen if he didn't have that support.
At snack time, the children would normally pass a plate of fruit round & take one piece at a time. Whereas the only way River will sit at the table is if he has a plate of fruit in front of him to focus on. So that's what he has. Just adapting such a simple thing can make all the difference.
When we first started, we arrived 15 mins late and came in through the side door which is in the playground, so River could spend time in the playground and come in when he felt ready. Now, we're managing to come in through the main entrance. We still come in later than everyone else so that all the parents have gone and the kids are settled (in fact, today we were really early & arrived t the same time as everyone else & River had a minor freak-out) but we're doing well.
I then spent a session sitting in the corner of the hall, so that I was accessible if River needed me but it meant that he was more likely to interact with is 1:1 and work on his rapport with her instead of always looking to me. Then I spent a couple of sessions sitting in the kitchen out of sight, and even popped out to the shop- and he didn't even notice I was gone!
As from next week, I'm going to be leaving him for the whole session. I feel completely confident that he will be absolutely fine, and I am so very excited to finally have some time to myself!!
In other news, we've started our weekly Portage sessions. Our Portage worker is worth her weight in gold, really lovely and knows exactly what she's doing, very positive and knows how to push River's boundaries without pushing him too far. She also gives me lots of new ideas for games and activities.
We're also thinking of stopping the gluten free & dairy free diet. River has definitely made some progress since being on the diet, but not anywhere near the same level that others have found. The progress may be down to the diet, or it may be because he's just naturally developing, plus he's now having Portage & preschool and I spend a lot of time playing with him. I think the only way of knowing is to reintroduce these foods and see if he stops progressing or regresses. So now I just need to decide whether to stick it out a bit longer, reintroduce just dairy, just gluten, or both.
So overall, things are going very well! I'm making a really concious to not dwell on the future and the "what-ifs" and focus on the here & now, celebrating the achievements each day.