Not every nursery school is equipped to handle special-needs children. Circle of Friends is one school that does, and loves to do so.
At Circle of Friends, with locations at 2 Bethlehem Court in Delmar and Route 9W in Ravena, each classroom contains four staff members: a teacher, special education teacher, physical therapist and assistant. There are two teacher assistants per room and one psychologist for both centers.
In this way the environment is structured, while at the same time, education is specialized to each child. “You have to teach in different ways,” said JoAnn Preston, a teacher at the school. “You have to understand that with the spectrum [of disorders] there is not one mode for how to mainstream preschoolers into kindergarten.”
Circle of Friends is different from other nursery schools in that it is specialized to teach and conduct physical, speech and occupational therapy sessions to the three- to five-year-olds taught by the school. Needs ranging from autism, ADD and ADHD to physical and emotional abuse are all met by caretakers and physicians.
Either through a referral from schools or through parents who seek out Circle of Friends, children are first evaluated by the school’s team of experts in order to diagnose needs and create an individual education plan for the child. The cost of these evaluations is covered by the county or the child’s school district, and most children referred for evaluations do not need specialized services.
Classes are small, with one class at Circle of Friends containing 11 kids, seven of which having special needs, and all of which having specialized goals.
While finding out that your child has special needs is no doubt a difficult experience for any parent, Circle of Friends has become a network of support. As Preston said, “It’s good for them to know that they are not alone. “
For more information on hours and rates for the Circle of Friends nursery school program, visit www.cofpre-k.com.