Around this time of year the big question on the minds of the parents of my preschoolers who will be moving to kindergarten next school year is “Will my child be ready for general ed kindergarten?” Fortunately, I work with a great preschool special day class team so many of our students do move on to general ed kindergarten and are very successful in that placement. However, some students may not be ready to move to general ed kindergarten. We have IEP meetings, usually in April or May, to discuss the pros and cons with parents and usually come to a consensus on what we think is the best plan for the individual student.
Many parents are afraid that if their child doesn’t move to a regular education classroom in kindergarten they will be stuck in a special ed classroom for the rest of their schooling. That should never be the primary reason for moving a child to general ed kindergarten. While kindergarten is a big milestone, I like to remind parents that it is not necessarily the best time to make the jump from a special ed classroom to a general ed classroom. I cannot speak for all school districts but in my school district our special day preschool classes are generally between 8-12 students while a general ed kindergarten class will usually have around 34 students. For a student with social/emotional or language delays, being moved into a large general ed classroom before they are ready can be a nightmare. In my experience, a special day class kindergarten with mainstreaming as appropriate can be a much more successful environment for students that still need support with language and/or social skills. In many school districts, including mine, the classroom numbers are lower for first grade and it is also a more structured environment than kindergarten so it can be a better time for making the transition from a special ed classroom to a general ed classroom.
If your child is moving to kindergarten next year I recommend asking your IEP team for an observation of the special day kindergarten class that your child may attend. Many of the parents that go observe the special day class that their child may attend are relieved to see that the academics are still very rigorous while having a smaller classroom where their child can get more attention. Of course, classrooms vary quite a bit from district to district and even within districts so that is why I recommend observing the potential classroom and doing whatever research you can so you can make an educated decision about what is right for your soon-to-be kindergartner!