The Children’s School is committed to providing quality education to all children. At the heart of our philosophy is the belief that all children come to us with their particular unique needs, and within our population of children, there will be some who require more focused, consistent attention in particular areas of development.
We believe that children with special rights should not be taken out of their classroom for the delivery of their special services. Children do not need to be segregated from their friends, teachers and familiar room to get the quality of assistance they need. Rather, we believe that it is every child’s right to be fully included in the classroom, and whenever possible, the approaches and strategies need to accommodate to the individual therapeutic requirements of each child. This is at the heart of developmental education.
All children have rights and are full of potential. They are competent, full of life, powerful, and not needy. Using the term “rights” over “needs” emphasizes the special qualities each child brings. While studying the municipal preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy, we learned about their use of the phrase “special rights” to describe children with special needs or “children with disabilities,” the term used by the MA and US Departments of Education. We are using the term “special rights” at the Children’s School, as it captures our beliefs about children with learning differences.
To the greatest extent possible we attempt to deliver the therapies in the classroom, so that the skills acquired are functional for the child instead of isolated skills that are practiced in the therapy room and nowhere else. At the Children’s School it is common to observe a therapist in the classroom engaged in a highly motivating activity with a child identified with special rights as well as several of her classmates. This model of including the support in the classroom is a conscious departure from traditional models of mainstreaming and integration. It also requires a carefully orchestrated collaboration between all individuals involved with any given child. This teamwork approach enables us to support the full inclusion of children with special rights in the classrooms.
Occasionally, therapeutic interventions may need to occur outside the classroom. This is most often due to equipment needed for therapy (such as a swing or large therapy ball) or the need to address a sensory, motor, or specific speech or language issue in a less stimulating environment than the classroom. In some instances, a classmate of a child with special rights may be invited to participate in a given therapy session. For children without special rights, this is a voluntary opportunity to spend time with a skilled occupational, physical, or speech and language therapist and a classmate. The activities are fun and engaging and children are usually eager to participate. The sessions usually last about 30 minutes. If not in the classroom, the therapist will work in Room 118, the therapists’ office, located near the K-1 classroom, or in the Curriculum Lab.
In addition to our teaching staff we are fortunate to have a team of specialists, who collaborate with the teachers, families, and all others who may be involved in setting goals for the children identified with special rights. Coordinating the team is our Director and Special Rights Coordinator. The coordinator serves as liaison with public school systems who may refer children to the Children’s School, and meets regularly with parents, therapists, and classroom teachers around the programming needs for the children with special rights. Specialists include occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, physical therapists, and a mental health consultant. At times there is also a teacher of the vision impaired/orientation and mobility instructor, a behavioral specialist, and other specialists. Whenever possible, every attempt is made to coordinate with school systems to secure the services required for children and families.
Children with special rights are enrolled in all of our groups. Some are referred to us through public school systems. Sometimes parents enter the Children’s School with questions and concerns about their child’s development or share the findings from an outside evaluation. Sometimes a child’s teacher raises questions about the progress of a particular child. In this case teachers will bring up their questions to the Special Rights Coordinator and/or Director, who will then observe the child in the classroom. If a decision is reached that there are concerns which warrant further analysis, these will be shared with the child’s parents. If, at any time, parents have concerns about their child’s development, they can request additional input from the Special Rights Coordinator. In the event that an outside referral is recommended or required, this will be communicated to parents.
Our commitment to children and families with special rights is an important part of our effort to serve diverse populations. It is our hope that everyone will honor the range of differences and provide equitably for all children and families. We know this is an important value to promote, and one that is essential for children to believe as our world becomes increasingly more diverse. Appreciation and respect for all people, regardless of their differences and similarities, is at the heart of our program.
As a private program, we receive no state or federal funding to support our special rights program. In the event that a child requires special services or regular monitoring, there are additional fees to cover the cost of the therapeutic services. Whenever possible, we encourage families to work with their community school system to get the special services available through the public school. If that is not possible, families will assume the cost of agreed upon services. We are not making any profit from the special rights program. If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas share them with the Special Rights Coordinator or Director.
NOTE: We are not considered an approved private school for special education, because we are an inclusion setting — not a school exclusively for children with special rights. Therefore, if you seek funding from your public school system you may run into difficulty, especially for children eligible for kindergarten or older.