State of New Jersey Preschool Program Implementation Guidelines

I have an eight-year-old daughter named Makenzie. She’s beautiful and smart and so talkative. She reads books a year or two above her grade level and is overall a thriving and happy child.

A few years ago, I would never have expected to see this from her. At the age of two, Makenzie still hadn’t spoken her first word. By the age of three, she had a vocabulary of less than two dozen words.

We made the decision to enroll her in an “early intervention” preschool program-Visit Tessa– for special needs children. After testing her, the instructors said she had the verbal skills of a 12-month-old child and the intellectual skills of a 16-month-old. At this point, Makenzie’s actual age was exactly 36 months.

Initially, the school began with programs to help us connect with Makenzie. They provided us with resources for sign language and helped us find a community agency that could pay for a speech tablet. We were told it was likely she would never learn to speak like a neurotypical child.

However, within a year of enrolling her in this preschool, we saw a huge change helping children to learn. I don’t think she would have grown nearly as much without the early intervention preschool program. By the end of her first year in preschool, Makenzie’s vocabulary had grown from around twenty words to over two hundred.

Testing at the beginning of her second year of the preschool program showed that her intellectual abilities were closing the gap on her chronological age quite quickly. Her verbal skills were growing too, but not quite as fast, showing that she had the verbal skills of a 4-month-old on her fourth birthday.

The explosive growth in her skills continued through her second year in preschool. By the time spring rolled around, we were talking with the local school about transitioning her into a typical kindergarten classroom. She wasn’t even going to need to have one on one support.

I could hardly believe we were there, having that conversation. I never expected that she would go from barely speaking at the age of three to being ready to start kindergarten with her peers. And yet, there we were, showing our almost five-year-old around a kindergarten classroom just like all the other parents.

These days, Makenzie is in the third grade. She is thriving in her classroom, keeping up with schoolwork and making friends easily. Other than a slight speech impediment, she has no symptoms of her earlier language delays. People who meet her now have no idea of her struggles.

I know I have her early intervention preschool program to thank for this. Preschool was a godsend. I can only hope that everyone with a child who might need a little extra push has access to the preschool programs they need.

Even neurotypical children can benefit from preschool programs, I think. It gets them ready for school and also spots any issues they might have. Early preschool is something everyone should have access to.