In East Flatbush, a state-funded school that services young children for early intervention is the primary school for residents looking for a facility that caters to young children with special needs. The State University of New York’s (SUNY) Infant and Child Learning Center pays special attention to their students, and providing preventative measures to ensure children of special needs have a proper educational environment.
The school has been around for 30 years servicing infants and toddlers — all of whom are born at SUNY Downstate’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Majority of these students are on the spectrum, suffering from autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), have speech delays, and other learning disorders. And the school’s main mission is to help curb any and all of those disabilities, and set the children on the right path, said the school’s executive director.
“We are a preliminary service for students with special needs between birth and five years old, and a major part of our program is our early intervention program,” said Kathy McCormick.
The school aims to be well-connected with both its student body and the families.
“We provide a high quality service in a low-risk environment, and we are always in contact with parents because it is very important to us that communication between the school and the community is transparent,” added McCormick. “It’s an integral part of who we are.”
For enrollment, students are entered into the school under department of health eligibility criteria. If the children are born in NICU and show early signs of aforementioned disorders, they are eligible for the school. Only residents in the area are qualified for the service but they are not required to sign up and it is not based on income, said McCormick.
“We do the evaluation but the decision is completely up to the parents. We don’t determine what school they can go to,” she said. “The parents don’t have to agree to anything and it’s not mandatory, but we do tell them about the free service.”
There is a staff of 45 that includes teachers, therapists, and psychologists. The school has five classrooms that have about 12 to 18 students, and two teachers per room and a paraprofessional, according to McCormick.
“All classes but one have special needs of varying degrees and our integrated class, is the only class that’s different,” said Lisa Fletcher.
A few special programs the school offers are music therapy, yoga, karate, and other supplemental programs. They also partner with The Brooklyn Public Library and nature organizations to bring in interactive activities to the school. And at-home services are also available.
McCormick has worked with the school from the early start and says running a school that focuses on the critical and early stages of education for delayed children is a huge dedication that she fell in love with.
“It is definitely a commitment because you have to make sure the students and the parens needs are met,” she said. “But I’m very honored to work here because it grabbed my heart and that’s why I’ve stayed.”