Ryan Gears Up for Preschool

Photo of RyanRyan is an unwavering toddler who, like many toddlers, just wants to do what all the other kids his age are doing. Lately, that means trying to run to keep up with his peers at daycare – something his parents, Kristina and Matt are pleased to see. “Ryan has Down syndrome, so learning to walk didn’t come as easy for him as it does for typically developing kids,” says Kristina. “Once he got the walking down, he’s now working on a run-walk to try and keep up with his friends. He’s determined to catch them as they run around.”

With therapy coordinated through Boone County Family Resources and the First Steps program, Ryan’s team of an occupational therapist, a physical therapist and a speech therapist has helped him reach some important developmental milestones. Kristina and Matt also employ a caregiver through the Boone County Family Resources Home-Based Support Services program. Terrance works with Ryan twice a week on the one-on-one repetition he needs to master the physical movements associated with walking and running. “Having Terrance come to our home is a tremendous help,” says Kristina. “Especially when we can see the progress he’s been able to make with Ryan.”

Ryan has also made great strides with communication through sign language and is progressing well with his verbal language, too. Kristina took the American Sign Language class offered through BCFR and said it has been so helpful when communicating with Ryan that she has incorporated teaching sign language into the daycare setting, too. “Now babies as young as 8 months can tell me when they’ve had enough to eat by using signs,” says Kristina. “It makes things much easier.”

The family is gearing up for Ryan’s third birthday in July which means he will transition out of the First Steps program and will begin preschool. He has been referred to the Special Learning Center in Jefferson City and will start there in August after pre-academic testing later this spring. Kristina says she’s nervous about the upcoming changes, but admits that Ryan will probably handle it much better than she and Matt. “We’ve started singing ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and have already started talking about school buses to prepare Ryan for riding a bus this fall.” The thing Kristina and Matt say they will miss the most about First Steps is having the weekly interaction with the support team. “They were always available to answer questions and offer suggestions.”

Even though they will miss the First Steps providers, Kristina sees their family’s involvement with both the Jefferson City and Columbia Down syndrome support groups as another way to seek answers to those upcoming questions. “The groups’ activities give parents a chance to talk to each other and share experiences and offer guidance,” says Kristina. “It also gives Ryan a peer group and introduces him to older kids with Down syndrome. As he gets older he may have questions that only other kids with Down syndrome can answer. Getting involved with the support groups is what I would recommend to any parent of a child with special needs.”

Before preschool officially starts, Kristina said they have been considering therapeutic recreation options such as horseback riding or adapted swimming lessons for Ryan. “He also recently enjoyed a music therapy session with the Columbia Down syndrome support group,” says Kristina. “I know he’s going to enjoy preschool and all it has to offer. It’s just such a big change. I’ll probably be the parent that follows the bus to school on the first day.”