Meredith Autism Program / Inclusive Preschool Classroom

Bulletin board of preschool children's art of Corduroy, a popular children's book character, made of paper and buttons.

WELCOME TO THE EXPLORERS PRESCHOOL CLASSROOM

The Meredith Autism Program (MAP) launched the Explorers Preschool Classroom in August of 2016. This preschool program enrolls five to six children who are typically developing, ages three years to five years old. All children must be potty trained and have no diagnosis or issues with social/emotional development. The Explorers class is currently taught by Melissa Snell who is a licensed birth through kindergarten teacher. Melissa received her teaching degree from ECU and conducted her student teaching at Root and Douglas Elementary Schools. Melissa’s quote on teaching: “I believe that the classroom is a community where children learn from hands on experiences and play based learning that incorporate the whole child.  My goal as a teacher is to create a school family where children feel safe and connected to one another.  My partnership with families is very important in building the extended school family to support and nurture children’s growth.”

The Explorers classroom also serves as an inclusive preschool setting for children on the autism spectrum enrolled in the MAP. Children enrolled are included throughout the week with a trained Meredith College student “shadow” for four to ten hours depending on each child’s abilities. The Explorers classroom is not an ABA classroom, but one using developmentally appropriate practice, focusing on social and emotional development. The goal is for children participating in our ABA program to take learned skills and make them functional in a typical, small group setting.

Classroom Management & Emotional Development

Pocket chart hanging on the wall of stuffed animals displaying various emotions like angry, sad, happy, etc.Our classroom uses Conscious Discipline as a behavior support system.  Conscious Discipline is an adult first, emotional intelligence model developed by Dr. Becky Baily.   Based on current brain research, conscious discipline empowers adults and children to build positive relationships.  The classroom is transformed into a school family where children learn tools to regulate their emotions and solve problems during teachable moments throughout the day.  The school family climate encourages children to be helpful and kind, creating an environment where children feel safe to learn.  Children will learn tools to help them regulate their own behavior and be able to "keep it safe" in the classroom.  We will breathe and talk about our feelings to gain better self-control and self-awareness.  Conscious discipline is evidence based and used in all aged classrooms, as well as with adults.

Some of the basic principles used with this practice include (but are not limited to):

  • Safety – Everything in the classroom is framed around safety.  The teacher is the safe keeper whose job is to keep the children safe.  The children's job is to help keep it safe.   The traditional rules of a classroom are transformed into positive statements of ways to help keep it safe.
  • Community – The classroom is a school family where everyone plays a part to contribute to its success.  Everyone has a job and plays a part in the daily operations of the class.  We encourage each other to be helpful and kind. 
  • Connection – The school family is the foundation of the connection in the classroom.  Teachers make meaningful connections to students and students make meaningful connections with each other.  Those connection motivate everyone in the classroom to contribute to its success.  We are all in this together!
  • Self-Regulation – Children are taught the skills necessary to calmly respond to strong emotions.  Through breathing and using your big voice, children are able to respond to situations that create those emotions.  Practice during calm moments leads to success when emotions arise.  
Curriculum & Teaching Strategies

We also use several teaching strategies in the classroom to teach across the various ages as we develop foundational skills in young preschoolers, and needed kindergarten skills in children turning five years old. Most of preschool teaching is incidental teaching in table activities, circle time and centers where math concepts, following schedules, turn-taking, fine motor skills, and other pre-academics are addressed in hands-on learning.  There are several “hands-on” special activities to enhance the current learning theme.

Children sitting on the carpet in a group, imitating the action of the L character in Letterland: Lucy Lamplight.Our classroom also uses Letterland from the UK to teach letters and phonics.  “Letterland is a unique, phonics-based approach to teaching reading, writing and spelling to 3-8 year olds. The Letterland characters transform plain black letter shapes into child-friendly pictograms and they all live in an imaginary place called Letterland.”  Letters come alive for the children through loveable characters and memorable stories that make learning letter shapes and sounds fun.  Most Wake County schools have adopted the Letterland curriculum for use in Kindergarten through 2nd grade.  Introducing children to the characters and stories of Letterland in preschool gives them a head start to literacy success.  

One young boy is sitting beside the classroom teacher using a small crayon to work on fine motor skills to color a picture. The Explorers classroom incorporates the Handwriting Without Tears program to teach pre-writing and writing skills for children. As Kindergarten curriculum becomes more and more academic it is important for children to have a solid foundation of writing skills prior to entering Kindergarten.  The Handwriting Without Tears readiness and writing curriculum exposes children to pre-writing skills in a fun and engaging way that can be tailored to each child’s needs and builds on their currently ability level.  Children will use the Get Set for School workbook along with hands on materials and songs as they explore letters and writing.  The readiness and writing curriculum focus on correct crayon grip, drawing, letter building, letter and number recognition.  The curriculum also focuses on correct letter formation using multi-sensory manipulatives. This program progressively develops fine motor strength and helps children work on the skills needed for their developmental level.

Operation

The Explorers classroom is a half day program which operates from the beginning of September through the end of May. The preschool day runs from 9:00am-12:30pm. Children eat one snack and a lunch at school, provided by the child’s caregiver.  There are several days when the classroom is closed based on the MAP calendar including the last two weeks of December. Enrollment is open for five mornings per week only. 

Our classroom does not celebrate religious holidays but is inclusive to families of all religious and ethnic backgrounds. The Explorers classroom helps families and children to accept all those who may seem different from one another through kindness and helpfulness.

Tuition for the 2017-2018 School Year: $330 per month.

Tours available upon request. Please contact MAP at 919-760-8022 or colek@meredith.edu

Now enrolling for Fall 2017.  Download an application. 

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Meredith Autism Program

The Meredith Autism Program is an early intervention program serving children who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

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Contact Information

Meredith Autism Program
3800 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607-5298
(919) 760-8080
Fax: (919) 760-8818
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