James, Yoshua, Milton and Fabrizio were the four newest participants of our Inclusion program, starting the full inclusion program at CEIP “Piagetano” in the 5 year old class in March. Three of the four boys are on the autism spectrum with a range of cognitive and social abilities. The experience confirmed our theory of ” the earlier the better” with inclusion. As a preschool class does not quite have the strict demands of primary school, its an excellent environment to teach group social and academic skills. 5-year olds are also much easier to teach empathy and friendship as they do not yet judge peers to the extent of older primary school peers.
James found he loved to help “direct” the class with the teacher and would help her with her lessons. While his chronological age is only one year older than his peers he maintained typical academic achievements and could complete the same work as his peers. While we saw incredible improvements in all four of the boys, we saw the best social integration with James: his ability to interact with his peers, engage in imaginary play, answer group questions from the teacher and follow directions. These skills are crucial for a successful inclusion.