At the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Preschool, inclusive education a priority

The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Preschool at ASU has seen positive results following its relocation to collaborate with the Department of Speech and Hearing Science at the Tempe campus.

Executive Director Allison Mullady said the school’s move from the Farmer Education Building to the Community Services Building North of Papago Park in July 2014 was primarily intended to create an inclusive environment for both special education and typically developing students, or children with normal developmental patterns.

“Our goal is to be on the forefront of what inclusion looks like and what quality preschool looks like for kids with special needs,” Mullady said.

The preschool was open for approximately 20 years before collaborating with the Department of Speech and Hearing Science, which ran its own preschool for about 20 years as well, Mullady said.

The Teachers College Preschool has 40 students, which are divided into three classrooms with children aged 3 to 5, she said.

Mullady said the school sees benefits for both special needs and typically developing children in an inclusive environment.

“We see kids who have special needs learning from their peers,” she said. “We also see children who have not been identified as special needs having a growing level of compassion for others.”

Nissa Anderson, a parent of a 4-year-old student at the Teachers College Preschool, said her autistic son has thrived after switching schools in February.

“They do a really good job of figuring out how to help him and work with him,” Anderson said.

She said inclusion at the preschool “works really well” for her son’s social skills and ability to get into routines.

“His teacher took pictures of him doing different things like snack time, circle time, and going outside … and she made a picture schedule for him that she put on the wall and labeled," Anderson said. "It was a lot of extra work and it was impressive."

She said her son has acquired a lot of unexpected knowledge from his days at school. For example, she said he came home one day and asked Andersonif she knew what “diurnal” meant, which is the opposite of nocturnal.

“Yeah, I didn’t know what it meant,” she said.

Nicole Ainsa has been a lead teacher at the preschool since January 2015. Her twin children both attend the school as well.

Ainsa said the Teachers College Preschool has a smaller teacher-student ratio than the previous preschool she taught at.

“I believe they try to keep our ratios one-to-six. Before, I had a class of 18 with me, and only one assistant,” Ainsa said. “This way, there are more language models and more people to help them with their social interactions through play.”

She also said classrooms have a wide range of ages in one classroom, as opposed to some preschools that separate their students by age.

“With the different age groups mixed up, they are learning from each other. They have those older models to look up to, and the older kids are aware of the younger ones so they can help guide them,” Ainsa said.

Ainsa said her ultimate goal in teaching these students is to prepare them for adulthood by having them be independent in even the smallest tasks.

“Even if it’s making sure they wash their hands after they use the bathroom, I just want to prepare them to be lifelong learners,” she said. “Ultimately, I want them to be successful, independent, and to enjoy learning.”

Correction: A previous version of this story gave Nissa Anderson the wrong last name. This version of the story has been updated with the correct information. 

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