Preschool is a safe environment and a source of support for Sinan
The father of a four-year-old boy with disabilities speaks of the positive experience of his son enrolling at preschool
Podgorica, 25 August 2022 – Between 7 am and 8 am, four-year-old Sinan and his father arrive at Dragan Radulović Preschool at Stari Aerodrom in Podgorica. This boy with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) slowly puts on his slippers, says goodbye to his father, while giving a smile to the teachers.
“A year ago, this was unthinkable,” Sinan’s father, Arslan Beriša says. “At the beginning, Sinan would cry a lot and refuse to stay in the kindergarten. There was no way of calming him down, but his assistant and the teachers tried very hard and with a lot of patience he got accustomed to it after two months.”
Although they live in Vrela Ribnička, this family decided to enrol their son in a downtown preschool, believing it would help him socialize better when surrounded by children from other neighbourhoods.
The preschool developed an Individual Development and Education Plan for Sinan to foster his cognitive, socio-emotional, speech and language, and motor development, and help develop life skills and hygiene routines. For better communication at home and in preschool, Sinan recently got his Cboard app, facilitating communication by means of symbols and text-to-speech conversion.
“The boy has changed a lot since enrolling in preschool. I notice that he behaves more appropriately and is better at speaking. He can make short sentences, say the names of animals. He is now better socialized, calmer. We also noticed he gets along with his siblings much better,” his father, who is now able to go to work while the boy is at preschool, observed.
Dijana Kadović, psychologist and PR at Đina Vrbica Public Preschool, believes that early childhood is a critical period for learning, particularly in the life of a child with ASD.
Moreover, a vast body of research shows that if such children enrol in an early intervention programme by the age of five, they tend to achieve much better outcomes concerning their communication skills.
While in preschool, a child with an autism spectrum disorder has an opportunity to engage in play and various pedagogical activities which offer an ideal space for building confidence, developing a positive self-image and for overall self-affirmation.
On the other hand, in her mind, peers without autism spectrum disorders benefit by becoming more empathetic, accepting and understanding diversity, becoming more sensitive to the needs and difficulties of their schoolmates.
For parents of children with disabilities wondering whether to enrol their child in preschool, Arslan Beriša has a clear message.
Comparing Sinan now from two years ago, there is a world of difference. Attending preschool did that for him.
A UNICEF study on investments in early childhood education (ECE) in Montenegro showed that ECE coverage varies and that preschool education should be more readily available, while at the same time raising awareness of its significance. In addition, spending on preschool education should be increased with further investments made for developing programmes for 3-to-6-year-olds so that all children in Montenegro may benefit from attending preschool.