STEUBENVILLE-The Jefferson County Board of Developmental Disabilities is placing more emphasis upon early intervention and preschool programs as federal mandates lead to privatized adult services.
The JCBDD concluded the transition from adult services on March 1 to meet legislative requirements and Superintendent Michael Zinno said officials are redirecting their attention to preschool and early intervention (E.I.) programs to meet the needs of children, but the long-term goal is to enable students to return to their home schools.
“Our goal is to meet the needs of our school districts. We are an optional program and we’re here because the schools and community support us,” Zinno said. “Part of it is serving younger kids, and the ultimate goal is for them to go back to their school districts. Our greatest chance of success in getting kids back to their home district is early intervention and education.”
He added that the restructuring came at the right time with the readjustment of the adult program. Officials have also noticed a definite need for early intervention and preschool programs with the number of youngsters increasing over the past year.
Neysa Rogers, early intervention and preschool supervisor, said there was has been a steady increase in E.I. clients with the number currently standing at 106 children. The program is open to kids aged birth to three years old and the staff includes an occupational therapist, two speech therapists, a part-time physical therapist and four evaluators plus service coordinators to manage the services provided.
“We do in-home services for any developmentally delayed child whether it’s speech, hearing, vision, gross motor skills, fine motor skills or feeding,” Rogers continued.
Services are held at the convenience of the family, be it on a weekly to monthly basis, and the plan is to help the youngsters transition to preschool. Children may attend at schools in their home districts, private schools, the School of Bright Promise or none at all. The School of Bright Promise has started a new preschool unit this year to support 24 special needs and eight typical students in all-day and part-time classes. One part-time class attends on Tuesday and Thursday with a half-day on Monday and a second class attends Wednesday and Friday with a half-day on Monday. Full-time pupils attend on Tuesday through Friday and have Mondays off to allow for teachers’ planning sessions.
“If they attend School of Bright Promise, the special needs students receive related services for physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech or a combination of the three,” Rogers said. “We were able to transition students from E.I. to our preschool. Our main goal is to build skills while they are in early childhood and send them back to their main school district.”
In addition, Amber Ankrom and Casey Stone were respectively hired for the preschool and primary autism programs and were eager to get started.
Ankrom, who joins SBP following stints at Jefferson County Christian School and in Hancock County, always wanted to work at the School of Bright Promise and teaches nine children.
“I’ve admired everyone who works here. It’s an honor and I’m really excited,” she said. “My father is a teacher and he inspired me a lot. I want to help each of the kids grow to the best of their abilities. I love teaching preschool because they fill your heart with joy when you see their milestones. You become an educator to see those milestones happen.”
Stone, who works with kindergarten and first-graders with autism, was always interested in special education and previously worked for Brooke County Schools. She presently oversees a class of six students.
“I like having the ability to work one-on-one and in small groups so I can see the reward of them making progress,” she added. “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and took courses as an undergrad. It fueled me to work with kids who struggled and weren’t typical learners.”
For more information on the E.I. or preschool programs, contact the school at (740) 264-7176, Ext. 1126.