Preschool Program

The Preschool Program embodies an inclusive educational initiative crafted to foster a diverse and enriching learning atmosphere for all young children.

Our program thrives on a community of highly skilled educators and education researchers who collaborate closely with parents and families to unlock the full potential of each child's development. By tailoring individualized goals for every child, we follow a comprehensive curriculum that encompasses various areas of learning. The inclusive environment of the Preschool Program not only encourages children to interact with their surroundings but also instills values of compassion towards others, preparing them holistically for success not only in kindergarten but also beyond.

With a remarkable teacher-to-student ratio and a personalized teaching approach, our success extends equally to children with autism and those without developmental concerns. Our primary focus revolves around meeting the social and emotional needs of all children, fostering independent participation in classroom activities, and nurturing their evolving communication skills through collaborative learning experiences.

More about the program

The Preschool Program is a collaboration of Minnesota University and ATF Learning Difficulties Center. We operate as both a center and a place of a preschool education. As a result, the Preschool Program continuously creates new and better ways of supporting families and meeting the learning needs of all children.

We are currently enrolling all ages of children. We offer half-day classroom hours from 9:00 a.m. to 1 p.m., afternoon half-day classroom hours from 2:00 p.m. to 6 p.m. and full-day classroom hours and aftercare from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. We operate on a year-round schedule from September to July.

Our classrooms provide an inclusive educational environment where children with and without autism learn together. By enrolling in our program, you and your child will discover that all children have their own unique ways of playing, thinking, feeling, relating and learning. Children learn best when they engage with others who experience and participate in different ways, and this diversity reflects the world we live in. Our Preschool Program teachers create flexible classroom environments that accommodate and embrace each child’s unique way of learning.

To better understand our Preschool Program, it helps to have a basic understanding of autism. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a child’s social skills, communication or behavior. It often means that a child’s brain develops and works a little differently and can affect how that child understands and relates to others. True to its name, autism is a spectrum. No two children with autism are exactly alike; some kids may have severe challenges while others do not.

While toddlers and preschoolers with autism may face some unique challenges, overall they have more in common with their typically developing friends than not. Most differences tend to be subtle and are best understood as part of the range of personalities and learning styles in the class. All children with autism admitted to our program are ready to learn and contribute to the learning of their friends.

Enrollment is currently open for our Early Preschool classroom. To enroll in this classroom, children must either be 2 years old on September 1 of the respective school year or 2 years old on the day of enrollment.

Similarly, to enroll in the Preschool classroom, children must be 3 years on September 1 of the respective school year. This classroom will open in September 2018.

Children are ready to learn in the Preschool Program if they:

  • Pay attention to and show interest in other children.
  • Have started to communicate using gestures, eye contact and short phrases.
  • Have started to engage in pretend or dramatic play such as feeding a doll or dressing up.
  • Children with autism seeking enrollment must have a diagnosis at the time of admission. Evidence of age-appropriate immunizations must also be provided at the time of enrollment.

The Preschool Program uses a two-tiered curriculum that includes both The Creative Curriculum and the SCERTS Model.

  • The Creative Curriculum bases its educational approach on the idea that all children progress and learn through interactions with the social and physical environments. The Creative Curriculum provides an open framework consisting of a set of guiding principles and practices for children of varying developmental levels. The Creative Curriculum allows for modifications and adaptations to ensure success for all children and is respectful of family home values, beliefs and experiences.
  • The SCERTS Model, complementary to the Creative Curriculum, is an assessment-intervention approach aimed at the most significant challenges faced by children with autism. The curriculum targets individualized intervention goals and objectives for students in the domains of social communication (SC) and emotional regulation (ER). Transactional supports (TS) are intervention or teaching strategies embedded in everyday activities to support child learning and active engagement. The SCERTS Model is based on the following principles:
  • Social communication goals emphasize functional use of communication in natural settings.
  • Child emotional regulation and its effect on communication, interaction, and learning and arousal states are monitored continuously.
  • Approaches to problem behavior are integrated with social communication and emotional regulation.
  • Environments are arranged and activities are designed to foster motivation and encourage initiation of communication.
  • Transactional supports are used to promote active and independent participation in activities.
  • Learning and playing with peers is an essential component of education.
  • Development of positive relationships among professionals and family members is critical to successful collaboration.