First Starts is a specialized pre-school programme for children with learning needs.
Mapped onto Wee Care’s highly successful Bright Starts and Head Starts programmes for regular children, First Starts is a primer programme; a first start, so to speak, of little steps before the child’s eventual and hoped-for “big step” into a mainstream setting.
Like all of Wee Care’s other learning programmes, First Starts is characterized by:
- playful and experiential Open Learning activities that allow for the child’s holistic development, with a special emphasis on the development of social language, social and creative play as well as social interaction skills;
- Life Skills activities that encourage independence and social awareness, self-help abilities, fine-motor dexterity and the development of Emotional Intelligence (a Theory of Mind).
Importantly, teacher-therapists in the First Starts programme incorporate evidence-based behavioural approaches in the remediation of learning difficulties whilst encouraging the development of crucial prerequisite skills such as joint attention, imitation, the motivation to learn plus the acquisition of a broader repertoire of play and behavioural skills.
ACTIVITIES and FORMAT
First Starts has a modified academic curriculum to accommodate learning differences. Subject components include the following each week:
Mondays: Language Concepts and Numicon Math
Tuesdays: Open Learning and Phonics/Letters
Wednesdays: Life Skills and Language & Communication
Thursdays: Open Learning and Language & Communication
Fridays: Language Concepts and Science
PARENT / CAREGIVER INVOLVEMENT
First Starts is a drop-off programme and parents/caregivers are not required to participate in the learning sessions. However, First Starts teachers-therapists are continually on hand to brief and keep parents up-to-date with their children’s progress.
CLASS SIZE and EDUCATOR-CHILD RATIO
First Starts has a low teacher-student ratio; in this case, of 1 teacher to 3 children. First Starts can only enrol 5 children per morning session.
ADMISSION and FEES
Children who wish to be admitted into the First Starts programme must first attend a consultation with Wee Care’s Senior Therapist. This will enable the Early Intervention team to identify the child’s specific learning needs and subsequently prepare the appropriate Individual Educational Plan (IEP).
During the consultation, parents should provide all of the relevant and necessary information about their child’s diagnosis, including reports by child psychologists where available.