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Virtual Preschool

Last night was a tiring but productive start for graduate school. I finished the Module 1 Discussion Board with comments to classmates, along with my Module 1 Reflection based on all of the readings and videos for one of my classes. I worked until 10, which is about as late as I can be productive. I know it sounds lame, but I’m typically in bed shortly after the kids because I prefer mornings.

I woke up early at 3:30 a.m. naturally. What woke me was Maggie having an early morning seizure. This is typical because Maggie will usually crawl into our bed between midnight and two and often have a seizure between 3 and 4. I snuggled her and when she was comfortably asleep, I slipped away. Andy was sleeping soundly in the room and so were the kids. I was able to work long enough to prioritize my assignments and come up with a study plan to ensure I don’t fall behind. Ideally, I’ll strive to work ahead by a week or two as a precaution for life happening.

The kids soon bounced out of bed. How do children wake up with so much energy? From zero to sixty, gentle snores to vigorous jumping on the bed on top of Daddy mountain, the kids wake with a roar. Where does that energy come from? Why don’t I have that? There they were, little monkeys jumping on the bed with a growling Daddy under the covers, all before 4:30.

Today will not be a typical day. Maggie goes to ABA Therapy from 8:30 to 3:30, but today, she will be home due to COVID. Maggie is fine. She was not exposed but in an abundance of caution, the facilities will be professionally disinfected and deep cleaned to prevent surface transmission after a confirmed case. Being home gives Maggie the opportunity to attend her district preschool class. She’s now officially enrolled with her special needs public school, but I worked out with her school that Maggie will attend in person when school reopens (as of now, it’s all virtual with tentative plans for a hybrid model sometime in February or March, plans subject to change based on local conditions). Everyone agrees that if Maggie has in-person “school” available through ABA, that is better for her than attending virtually, but if she’s home for whatever reason, she’ll attend the virtual preschool class.

Outside of ABA, Maggie’s services are all virtual. Speech is virtual, behavior is virtual, and starting next Thursday, occupational will be virtual. These are modifications based on COVID. Maggie does not do well with virtual. She can barely look at her grandparents for FaceTime conversations for more than a few seconds before she’s buzzing away to something else. Her attention span is extremely short and without a physical adult present to redirect, she does not remain on task. She does not comprehend that there is an actual person on the screen. “Look, Maggie, there’s your teacher (or therapist or grandma)!” She gives a cursory glance and runs off. Why would she want to sit and stare at a screen when she could run and jump around the room? I get it from her perspective.

Maggie may be special needs, but developmentally even neurotypical preschool children and early elementary children are not cognitively equipped for so much screen time, even if it’s for educational purposes. I don’t know if there’s more to Maggie’s disinterest in technology or screens, whether lighting or other factors may contribute to headaches or seizure activity. With understanding Maggie, I simply have to make inferences based on her behavior. For kids like Maggie, and even regular little kids, many kids struggle to get the most out of learning through virtual means.

In the meanwhile, we’re making the best we can out of the reality of the situation. Virtual preschool and virtual therapies will go back to in-person experiences, at least I pray it will in the foreseeable future. As an adult parent with little ones at home, I thrive with an online graduate school program because despite the challenges of working with little kids, I’m still home with my little kids. Virtual learning is different for a mature learning and little ones lack the maturity to thrive without in-person component to learning. They need socialization more than content. I just need the content.



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