Our son was diagnosed with autism in 2005 at the age of 3.5, and we decided to enroll him in an MECP classroom at the urging of the evaluator. It was a tough decision; he’d been home with me or spending time with a family friend who had become like a grandparent to him. Because we wanted him to learn his native (non-English) language, we hadn’t had the opportunity to spend time with other children his age.

At the time, he was eligible for three mornings in an MECP classroom where he spent time with children experiencing disability and typical peers. (Later, I would enroll my daughter in a similar classroom so that she could serve as a typical peer. It was a wonderful opportunity to take part in an inclusive setting, and very cost-effective at $5 a day!) Speech and occupational therapy were pushed into the classroom, and we received daily communication from the staff at the morning drop off. Having him take the bus home was a hard decision – he was so little! – but because the classroom was across town, it was the most effective way for me to get some work done before he came home.

During his year in ECSE, we gained strategies that could help us at home, including using household items to meet his sensory needs and trying PECS (picture exchange communication strategy) to bridge the gap between his challenged expressive communication and his need to communicate wants and needs. As a parent new to the world of special education, it was a relief to have people in his corner who were tapped into way more information than I had. My experience with them helped pave the way for my son’s transition to Kindergarten, and I felt more prepared to advocate on his behalf.