Preschools and daycares with lenient masking policy


I'm a mom to a 2 year and 2 month old boy. He just received a provisional autism diagnosis -- his main challenges are around receptive language and fine motor skills. He also  has some sensory challenges - the most prominent one being anything that touches his face. For that reason, mask-wearing is really hard for him. We have been working on getting him to wear a mask with the help of our OT but have not made noticeable gains.

He was supposed to start at a preschool in June, but upon telling them about his challenges, the school said that we would be unable to attend since they have a strict masking policy. I understand that this is being done to protect the children, but can't help but feel disheartened as a mom to a special needs kiddo who really struggles with the sensory aspect of mask wearing. 

Anyways, we are now exploring other daycare/preschool options for him that have a more lax masking policy or would be open to making an exception for him because of his sensory challenges and would accept a medical exemption letter. We live in Glenview, Oakland but would consider Berkeley as well. We ideally would love to find a school that has an inclusive environment and would be open to working with us on helping him wear a mask but also show compassion for his challenges. Just to reiterate, we are working on getting him to wear one as we believe in wearing masks especially to protect those who can't be vaccinated, but also don't want him to have to miss out on the benefits of preschool because of his challenges.

Thank you!

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I can’t help with particular recommendations, but wanted to chime in to say my twins were the same age when they started child care and had a lot of difficulty wearing masks (for a different reason, drooling making the masks wet). I could not get them to stay in them for more than 5 minutes. I was worried they wouldn’t be able to stay in child care but After a week of child care around all the other kids in masks, they’re absolutely fine keeping them on all day. 

Our preschool, Colibri, is now mask-optional at this point. I have a child in the 4s class and I would say 25-50% of the kids wear masks. I'm not sure about the lower classes. It is a Spanish immersion school and I'm not sure if that would work for your family and child, but we and our two kids have been very happy there. Our third is starting in the 2s class in the fall. The teachers are patient and understanding. When masking started they were great about recognizing how tough it was for kids but also encouraging them to wear them. The administrators are very on top of things. Both my kids have some challenging behaviors (though no diagnosis yet) and they have been very supportive and creative trying to figure out how to make school work. The only caution I would have is that my second has a speech delay. He has an IEP and goes to therapy through OUSD. While his doctor and I were aware of it I was surprised that the school didn't catch it sooner and encourage us to seek out help. I think the Spanish immersion environment (even though my husband and kids speak Spanish at home) and his behavior issues masked the speech delay for a while. So, I would ask some questions about how the teachers and school in general is trained in supporting kids with special needs.

This is kind of far for you, but you might try the New School of Berkeley, 1606 Bonita Ave, near the corner of Cedar Street. The school has a strong outdoor emphasis, meaning the children are outside all day, including for lunch. They're really only inside for naps and on rainy days. New School recently changed its mask policy and now the children and adults are not required to wear masks outside, and they are required inside. However, given that children have *never* been required to be masked during naps, they're essentially not wearing masks anymore. My three year old son attends and is perfectly happy there, and delighted to be mask-less.

I'm sorry that you are dealing with this. I don't know any preschool options but maybe consider talking to a lawyer if the preschools aren't making reasonable accommodations for your child and/or are rejecting your medical exemption letter. Also consider getting involved with some of the parent groups that working to fight these kind of harmful and discriminatory policies. I don't know what your commute options are but I would also try looking outside of Oakland/Berkeley. Other areas are doing a far better job of balancing covid risks with other important considerations.