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Benefits - Children

Quality early education opportunities have profound lifelong benefits for children. Communities throughout Wisconsin are adopting a community approach to 4 year old kindergarten (4KCA) to ensure that all four-year-olds have equal access to quality learning opportunities.

Click on the 4KCA benefit below to read excerpts from Bob Kann's Report "54 Benefits…" and to see the results of our survey of community councils sharing the impact 4KCA has had in their community.

  1. Fewer transitions during the day.
  2. Increases the continuity of care.
  3. Increases the number of facilities designed for children under six years old.
  4. Increases the ability to provide inclusive settings for four-year-old children with special needs.
  5. Beneficial to children with special needs.
  6. Easier transitions for three-year-olds entering 4K.
  7. Easier access to literacy specialists.
  8. Easier access to translators and support teachers.
  9. More information shared between the 4K teachers, the early childhood staff, and the public schools.
  10. More children offered therapy at their early childhood facility.
  11. Increases early intervention.

 

1. 4KCA has resulted in fewer transitions for children, allowing them to stay in one place for 4K and Child Care.

With the 4K Community Approach, children who need care for the hours when they are not in the 4K program can remain in one location for both 4K and child care; thereby reducing the stress of transitions and of being away from home.

 

 

The 4K Community Approach program makes it possible for children to remain in the same facility for 4K and child care. Transitions, as many parents know, are difficult for young children.  Fewer transitions maximize time available for learning, facilitates the children's adjustment to kindergarten and child care, and reduces the stress of being away from home. With care and education in the same facility, children don't have to spend time traveling from one place to another. When they arrive, they can settle in to a single building until it is time for them to go home.

Dana Sommerfeld, Director of State and Federal Programs for the Chippewa Falls School District, said:

"One of the best things we could possibly do for four-year-olds is to keep transitions minimal… With our community approach, the child is already in their setting and allowed to stay there. They have the same rules, the same people they deal with, minimal time of transporting them between places. If a parent works in a factory at 6:00 a.m. the child might have to go to a caregiver, the bus may take them to school, and then in a half-day program, the parent would have to pick the child up and take the child home or get them to another caregiver. That's a lot of transition in a day for a child. This is much easier. It's usually just the parent and the site."

As Jim Ruder, Principal of West Kindergarten Center and Baraboo Early Learning Cooperative in Baraboo, explains about wraparound services:

"Wraparound services are child care {services} available to families after the hours of the four-year-old kindergarten session, before or after the program….An additional advantage to the children is they don't have to spend time on the bus nor contend with a different facility, with a whole different set of rules, expectations. More continuity between the programs when they're just down the hall from each other compared to taking the bus across town.

For all kids I think it is a great advantage for them to stay in a familiar setting, many of them have already been enrolled in the day care and preschools that we partner with and they can stay there for their four-year-old kindergarten experience and just receive more specialized instruction in our 4K program."


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2. 4KCA has increased the continuity of care.

The 4K Community Approach enables young children to attend four-year–old kindergarten in a familiar facility with consistent rules, routines, and expectations.

 

When children attend school in one location and receive child care in another location, they have to learn to follow rules, routines, and expectations for behaviors that may be different in each locale. For some young children, (and sometimes older children, too), this lack of continuity is confusing and problematic. The 4K Community Approach program provides the opportunity for 4K and child care to be housed in the same facility, thereby enabling children to have only one set of rules, routines, and expectations to follow.

Additionally, there's more continuity of care and instruction for the child when the 4K staff and child care staff all know each other and work in the same facility. They can share information and strategies for working with each child.

Dennis Krueger, the Assistant Superintendent of the Howard-Suamico School District, notes,

"…Many of the children were able to stay where they were already attending – a preschool or early learning environment where they were as infants, one, two, and three- year-olds – and were able to continue as four year olds at 4K in the same setting. That means there is consistency for the child, and some of the process and pedagogy for children from the 4K trickles down to three-year-olds."

The 4K Community Approach program also provides parents with the greatest number of choices to select a program that best meets their child's and their family's needs. For a child who is insecure or fragile, this choice enables parents to choose a facility their child has already attended. This can help allay children's' fears about being away from their home and family. In an educational setting, a child who feels secure is more likely to be able to concentrate on learning and will reap the benefits of learning from peers.

Amy, the parent of a child who attended Good Shepherd Church in Green Bay for child care from infancy and later for 4K, describes how her son, "J", benefited from remaining in the same location for 4K and his preschool experience,

"My son attended Good Shepherd 4K for two years. He was born August 25, and he was always somewhat delayed- like red flagged at the screenings as far as speech types of things. We had him in the 4K first off because he wasn't speaking at age four. We had him repeat 4K twice because it was absolutely the best place for him because he started talking when he was around his peers. You could tell he was always slightly behind his peers in terms of development. He just really needed time. Right now he's doing really well in first grade. He's maybe a little bit ahead of his peers in terms of reading and math. He's a kid who needed time to do his own thing. He loved making necklaces- made about 150 of them. He grew and grew and grew. The 4K structure of learning through play was just what he needed, and we're really grateful that he had that in his life.

The Good Shepherd preschool is situated in our church, and so I feel he benefited from being there because here was an insecure little boy, but he knew that he grew up in that church. So he would say, "I'm going to church." If people pointed out that he was going to school, at first he was very nervous about that. But once he realized it {4K} was at church, he just skipped right in like "No big deal." So school was a little bit scary, but because it was at church it was familiar to him."


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3. 4KCA has increased the number of facilities designed for children under six years old.

 

The physical environment at the 4K Community Approach sites are usually specifically designed for children younger than six-years-old.

 

 

 

One strength of the 4K Community Approach program is that is allows parents to choose the most suitable venue for their children to receive 4K instruction. An option that appeals to many parents is to send their children to a community-based program in a facility designed for four-year-olds and younger children because it is more hospitable and comfortable for young children. Not only are the classrooms, the furniture, the toilets, the drinking fountains built for a smaller size but the playgrounds also are built for younger climbers. Therefore, the environment is more conducive to learning and playing.

Kathy Stachura, the owner of Cuddle Care Child in Green Bay, explains,

"{A community-based facility}... is a warmer, better environment than putting the children in a school. We're better set up to make their life easier and make them more comfortable. All of our furniture is small. Everything is age appropriate. When they go to a school, even that playground isn't developmentally appropriate for that child. The outside playground we have - everything is designed for what's developmentally appropriate for 4 year olds. We have spinners for brain development. We have the proper climbing stuff. We have blackboards out there they can draw on. We have water out there. We have sensory play. We have wooden blocks out there. I don't know that any of the schools in the area provide that kind of play for outside.

Everything here is geared for them. Our bathrooms are accessible right here. Four-year-olds- when they go to school- are they going to be able to walk down the hall and use the restroom? Our restroom is right next to the classroom. In school, they'd probably have to be attended; they couldn't walk down hall by themselves to the restroom. We've had four-year-olds who weren't potty trained. We have the diapering provisions here so that we can cover that. We have the shorter toilets so that they're comfortable sitting on the toilets."


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4. 4KCA has significantly increased the ability of communities to provide inclusive settings for four-year-old children with special needs.

 

 

The greatest source of pride for many educators involved in the 4K Community Approach program has been its impact on educating children with special needs in inclusive settings with their typically developing peers.. Prior to the introduction of 4K Community Approach, many communities clustered children with special needs in segregated early childhood classrooms. Inclusion has benefited children with special needs, their peers without special needs, parents, and ultimately the entire community. Several stories are provided below highlighting the benefits of inclusion resulting from the 4K Community Approach program:

Heather Cramer, the 4K Coordinator for the Stevens Point School District, describes the benefits of inclusion for children and parents:

"{I am most proud of} bringing children with special needs into the community in an integrated setting- not a separate classroom- because of what they can or cannot do. We're giving them the experience of being in a regular educational setting. We're including them in 4K programs with their typically developing peers and giving them the start they need. We've started programs that operate within the community-based settings instead of having our schools' special education housed in other buildings where there are no other little four-year-olds. We've now moved them out of our schools into places like the YMCA. We're giving them opportunities that they didn't have before. We now have a special education teacher who, instead of being at the school, teaches full-time at the YMCA. Giving them {children with special needs} opportunities that they didn't have before was our biggest accomplishment along with giving their parents a sense that their child can succeed. We now are looking at that child, what's best for them, which program best fits them, and moving that forward."

Lori Brandt, a special education teacher for the Manitowoc Public Schools, describes the benefits of inclusion for the peers of children with special needs:

"…Some kids with autistic-type needs often need visual supports in the classroom. One child last year named "K". was using a number of those, and the others kids in the classroom knew it. It was explained to them and they understood that some children needed to use these supports in order to help them do whatever. So there was a new child who joined the classroom in the middle of the year. Several children who often sat near "K" explained to the new child about the supports. The new student didn't need a teacher to explain about the supports because "K's" peers just took it upon themselves to say, 'K' uses the timer so that he can stop playing when it's time to stop playing.' They didn't need the teacher to do this. They took it upon themselves to explain, as 'K's' friend, why he needs it. It was perfect, 'So that he's ready to quit when it's time to quit playing – and he can be OK with this.'

... I also think of two four-year-olds, one I had last year and one the year before that I saw in one of our partner sites. If we didn't have a 4K Community Approach, they would have been brought into one of our public school buildings in a self-contained classroom. But in the community settings, they are benefitting from having peers who have social skills they can learn from and they have peers with language skills. Before we had large number of children who didn't have peers to model from. For some reason, children just learn much quicker from their peers than they do from an adult trying to model it. That was a huge benefit for the little guy I was following along with last year who had very limited language skills in particular. It really impacted his social skills as well, and the progress he made in his 4K classroom with his peers was amazing. He spent the first couple of months just watching the other children and really was trying to use his language to get his needs met with them and play with them. By the end of the year, he was feeling pretty confident with his skill, even though they were fairly limited.

His parents were very concerned that he might not be accepted by other four-year-olds olds who didn't have special needs. I think they were pretty amazed that only one month after when they dropped him off, he would go right into the classroom. He was allowed to bring a toy or two from home so that he could have something familiar to play with and share with his friends. He always had plenty of friends to play with him and who wanted to use the toys he brought. I think the parents really relaxed and realized that he's going to do OK in school."

Jim Ruder, Principal of West Kindergarten Center and Baraboo Early Learning Cooperative in Baraboo, details the social and academic benefits of inclusion resulting from 4K-CA:

"What jumps out at me about 4K Community Approach is my background being an early childhood special education teacher for the majority of my career. I believe that our biggest accomplishment has been the integration of our special education students who otherwise would have been in self-contained early childhood classrooms where they would traditionally have been in the past. They are now able to advance their learning. It's really rewarding to see those social relationships benefit everybody. Beyond social skills, we've seen our students with special needs take off academically and in many different ways in their development along with their social skills—that pops out.

…I'm convinced that the actual programming itself with having the majority of the students in the class be typically functioning four-year-olds is a great benefit to have our students with special needs make friends and learn along side those folks. …When there is a more natural proportion of typically developing students and kids with special needs, it makes a world of difference. I think the instruction provided by general education teachers is really strong and our special education students can receive some adaptations and modifications to programming, but on the whole we find out that kids are more alike than different when you look on the grand scheme of things. They are able to participate and benefit from what is often presented in our developmentally appropriate four-year-old kindergarten."


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5. The 4K Community Approach program is beneficial to children with special needs in many different ways.

 

Four-year-olds with special needs face all of the challenges of other four-year-olds and whatever additional challenges are posed by their special needs. While their disabilities vary, there are a myriad of advantages the 4K Community Approach program provides that increase the likelihood that they will have successful four-year-old kindergarten experiences and build a stronger foundation for their subsequent schooling. These advantages include:

  • It enables four-year-olds with special needs to learn from the modeling behaviors of their more typically developing peers
  • 4K Community Approach programs housed in facilities which include children younger than four-years-old enable children with disabilities who are developmentally immature to interact and play with children who are sometimes closer to their developmental level.
  • Most 4K Community Approach programs are located in community sites that have considerably fewer children than are typically found in a K-5 school setting. Four-year-old children with disabilities (and those without disabilities) who have never attended any program in a group setting before 4K may find it especially difficult to be amidst large numbers of older children. Hence, the intimacy provided by attending a program with small groups of children often better fits the needs of children with disabilities.
  • The staff at many of the community sites have particular expertise working with younger children. Their programs often include infants and toddlers, and so they're working in an environment in which they can observe how young children develop. The four-year-old kindergarten child also may have been attending that same community program since infancy. Hence, there may be several staff members who know that child intimately and who can share ideas about how to best meet the child's needs.
  • Community sites often offer wraparound care which means the number of transitions can be minimized in the four-year-old's day. This can be particularly important for children with special needs, who may function best in stable environments with predictable routines.

Lori Brandt, a special education teacher in the Manitowoc School District, comments that it can be particularly difficult for children with special needs to have multiple sets of rules and expectations to understand and follow,

"…The transition – they're going from one environment to another. It's difficult for children having one way of dealing with the day and the schedule and then having to leave that site and go into a setting that has another person whose rules and routines and schedule they have to follow. It lends itself to a lot of chaos in a child's mind, especially a child with a disability. When you work so hard in giving them structure and reliability in routine, it can be even harder for them than for children who don't have disabilities."


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6. The 4K Community Approach program makes transitions easier for three-year-olds when they enter four-year-old kindergarten.

 

The success of the 4K Community Approach program in connecting educational programs to child care facilities results in making transitions smoother for three-year-olds as they enter four-year-old kindergarten. Three-year-olds in community sites often know or at least have seen the teachers of 4K in their facility and hence have some familiarity with the adult who will become their teacher. Conversely, the teacher will perhaps know the child personally and can more easily learn about that child from that child's provider in the facility.

Sometimes the same curriculum is used with three-year-olds and four-year-olds. In the Howard-Suamico School District, for example, the "Creative Curriculum" is used in classrooms for both ages. In the Chippewa Falls School District, the "Pyramid Model for Developing Social and Emotional Intelligence" is used with students from preschool through grade twelve. Consequently, the three-year-olds and four-year-olds have experience and a comforting familiarity with practices and expectations that are present in each classroom they enter and will continue to be a part of their school life until they graduate from high school.

Lori Brandt, a special education teacher who serves all of the 4K community sites in the Manitowoc School District, describes how the 4K Community program make transitions easier for children with special needs by facilitating continuity in the practices between teachers of three-year-olds and four-year-olds,

"…Getting to go out to partner sites and people getting to know me and feel comfortable with me and see me as a resource so that I can help direct them to whatever resources they might need. I also provide services to three-year-olds out in our community sites. At the Y for example, I go out to the four-year-old classroom and I also see a child in the three-year-old classroom. Next year, that child will transition into the four-year-old classroom. In that instance, there have been partnerships built not only with me, but also between the teachers of three-year-olds and four-year-olds. The four-year-old teacher and I can be mentors to the three-year-old teacher, specifically around the need to provide visuals in the classroom for certain children with special needs. We're starting to see more and more supports happening that way to the classrooms for younger children. And, there have been occasions when there has been training for the teachers of four-year-olds that have been opened to the teachers of three-year-olds, too."


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7. In the 4K Community Approach Program, literacy specialists may be available to work one-on-one with children and assist staff on literacy-related issues.

 

 

The success of the 4K Community Approach program in connecting educational programs to child care facilities results in making transitions smoother for three-year-olds as they enter four-year-old kindergarten. Three-year-olds in community sites often know or at least have seen the teachers of 4K in their facility and hence have some familiarity with the adult who will become their teacher. Conversely, the teacher will perhaps know the child personally and can more easily learn about that child from that child's provider in the facility.

Sometimes the same curriculum is used with three-year-olds and four-year-olds. In the Howard-Suamico School District, for example, the "Creative Curriculum" is used in classrooms for both ages. In the Chippewa Falls School District, the "Pyramid Model for Developing Social and Emotional Intelligence" is used with students from preschool through grade twelve. Consequently, the three-year-olds and four-year-olds have experience and a comforting familiarity with practices and expectations that are present in each classroom they enter and will continue to be a part of their school life until they graduate from high school.

Lori Brandt, a special education teacher who serves all of the 4K community sites in the Manitowoc School District, describes how the 4K Community program make transitions easier for children with special needs by facilitating continuity in the practices between teachers of three-year-olds and four-year-olds,

"…Getting to go out to partner sites and people getting to know me and feel comfortable with me and see me as a resource so that I can help direct them to whatever resources they might need. I also provide services to three-year-olds out in our community sites. At the Y for example, I go out to the four-year-old classroom and I also see a child in the three-year-old classroom. Next year, that child will transition into the four-year-old classroom. In that instance, there have been partnerships built not only with me, but also between the teachers of three-year-olds and four-year-olds. The four-year-old teacher and I can be mentors to the three-year-old teacher, specifically around the need to provide visuals in the classroom for certain children with special needs. We're starting to see more and more supports happening that way to the classrooms for younger children. And, there have been occasions when there has been training for the teachers of four-year-olds that have been opened to the teachers of three-year-olds, too."


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8. In the 4K Community Approach Program, children who are English Language Learners (ELL) may have access to translators and support teachers in their community-based program.

 

 

The 4K Community Approach program has enabled some community sites to have sufficient funds to provide translators for children who are English Language Learners (ELL). In Manitowoc, for example, during the first few years of their 4K Community program, ELL children rarely were placed in community sites because translation services weren't available. In recent years, however, there has been a concerted effort to provide translators and other ELL support staff into community sites.

Linda Gratz, the former Director of Head Start in Manitowoc, explains,

"During the first year the 4K-CA program was in operation, at the end of the year we had a two week summer school program just for the children that were in Head Start. After the first year we realized we had other needs that we could use those additional funds for throughout the year to enhance services for the 4K, so we put bilingual aids in the classrooms so that our Hmong speaking children and Spanish speaking children actually had someone there in our classroom who could speak their native language. This really helped the educational experiences of those children. We never had had bilingual aids before. We wouldn't have been able to do so without the funds from 4K-CA."

Deborah Shimanek, the Principal and 4K Community Approach site coordinator for Manitowoc Public School District, gives another example of how the 4K Community Approach program benefited an ELL child,

"One Hispanic family- it was their first experience with schooling in our community. With the help of our translator going to the site and talking with the child and more importantly helping us communicate with the parents about our program, the little girl learned English fast. By the time she left 4K, she was almost fluent, and her parents went on some of the school forest trips so that they could experience some of the community resources outside of their home. It really did help that family to have faith and trust in the school system as well as get child to school on time, which we had struggled with at times. They saw the value of the education and the girl continues to have success in our system. The community sites would not have access to a translator without the 4K-CA program."


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9. In the 4K Community Approach Program, children benefit from information shared between the 4K teachers, the early childhood staff, and the public schools.

 

 

If indeed it "takes a village to raise a child," the 4K Community Approach program helps create such a village of adults from different arenas in the host 4K Community Approach communities who all work together for the betterment of children. 4K teachers, early childhood staff, and public school personnel share information, collaboratively solve problems, spread good ideas, plan transitions for young children, identify children needing special evaluations, and much more.

The Chippewa Falls School District has implemented a variety of practices designed to facilitate the most efficient sharing of information between the schools and the community sites regarding 4K children. The school district has provided all 4K teachers with computer access to the same management system used to record data for all of the K-12 students in the school district. The 4K teachers enter data on the kids just like other teachers in the system. It's all one seamless system and as a result there is easy access to information on each child.

The 4K teachers also attend joint training sessions with the K-12 teachers. In addition, all of the special education early childhood teachers in the 4K program are itinerant. When a site has needs for services or they have a referral, the itinerant teacher works right in that classroom alongside of the teacher. This begins a conversation with the school about which kindergarten program or teacher the child will work best for that child when he or she enters five-year-old kindergarten. This sharing of information has both short-term and long-term benefits for the child.

Kristine Cresco, the Child Care Center Director of Kid's Castle in Kenosha, describes several of the benefits of the sharing of information between the 4K teachers, child care staff, and special education teachers in the public schools in Kenosha,

"Early childhood staff came in to evaluate one child and saw we were struggling with a new child. Now they're in today to evaluate that second child. Having the special education teacher in that classroom helped the second child get services more quickly. It helps tremendously to have the school district working with us, giving us ideas, and working with the 4K teacher as well as the other teachers in that classroom. We then pass on ideas about working with this child to our afternoon teachers so that we have the consistency for this little girl. This makes the family happy, it makes us happy, and we're doing what's best for that child."

Lori Brandt, an itinerant special education teacher for the Manitowoc School District, describes how she shares ideas information in different 4K sites,

"I am blessed because I get to go in other people's classrooms and learn from them. Then I might go into another classroom a month down the line and see they're struggling in a particular area. I can either share ideas {to help them solve their problem} from another teacher I observed or worked with whose ideas are relevant or I can put those two teachers together.

The willingness of 4K teachers to brainstorm around issues where they're struggling class-wide or on a particular student I'm observing or working with has been amazing. Teachers are willing to try new ideas and tweak them. I get ideas from them every single day, and I get to take their great ideas and share them with other people. I'm constantly learning things from the teachers and sharing it amongst the sites. I get to take ideas I had and try to figure out how to match them with what teachers are doing in their classrooms."


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10. In the 4K Community Approach Program, children who need therapy can receive their therapy without having to leave their early childhood facility.

 

 

The 4K Community Approach program provides many benefits for the families of children who require different kinds of therapies (speech and language, physical therapy, occupational therapy). Children receive therapy at the 4K site and therefore don't have to go through the transitions involved in coming to-and-from the 4K and/or wraparound care programs in order to receive therapy. Parents don't have to leave their jobs to transport their children to therapies.

In the case of the Manitowoc YMCA 4K program, all 4K children use the Y's swimming pool and receive gymnastics instruction as part of their 4K program. This provides additional opportunities for children requiring physical therapy to improve their physical skills. Parents sometimes become members of the Y as a result of having their child attend the YMCA 4K program, and this adds even more opportunities for their children to develop desirable physical skills.

Virginia Brydges describes how her desire to provide children with the opportunity to receive therapy in a community-based facility led her to open Every Child's Place Childcare Center in Kenosha,

"I'm a former KUSD (Kenosha Unified School District) employee as a speech therapist. I left KUSD to raise my child and then worked in a clinical setting. I just felt that children really deserve an opportunity to be in a community-based center where they could receive all of their therapies at one time, their educational support in the same setting, and the parents could simultaneously remain at work. I saw many children receiving therapy during the day when it was somewhat difficult for parents to leave their jobs or socialize. So I started Every Child's Place.

…It's a nonprofit with a place for every child. Every Child's Place was built for children with special need, and every other child is welcome. So this collaboration works well for us. … it's been a great experience seeing the child gain from that curriculum {creative curriculum}, gaining from that teacher's expertise, and working collaboration with the therapists that come in and out of there every single day."

Steve Smith, the CEO of the YMCA in Manitowoc, describes how a girl who required physical therapy benefited from the collaborative strength of the 4K program in the YMCA,

"…I have another {story} from a couple of years ago. The little one had special needs. She was a triplet and the other two sibs died soon after birth. Between the efforts of the school district staff and our staff, and between the child going swimming and going to gymnastics and doing all the balancing things, this child learned to catch a ball as a four-year-old year old with us. She would be in our hallway catching a bouncing ball and bouncing the ball back from a physical therapist from the school district. And that was just one of the positive touches. We just watched her grow over the year. There are still challenges, but her family is now part of the Y and we see them regularly and they're participating in other family events."

Deborah Shimanek, Principal and 4K Site Coordinator for the Manitowoc Public School District, describes how having therapy in a community site benefited a child with autistic tendencies,

"There's a little boy named "L" who had some significant autistic tendencies. The parents approach was to not have him come to school. He had not gone through the Birth to 3 Program. Even though the pediatrician suggested some things, Mom and Dad chose to not follow through on it. They did enroll him in 4K, but he didn't come for a while. We began to meet with Mom and Dad. This little boy was overwhelmed by the setting. So we started small, and got him there {to the program} before everyone else got there so he could settle in and get used to the environment before it became too much. Then we were fortunate that we could have therapists work with him right in the setting. We had a big overall behavioral plan for when he got overwhelmed- where he could go for a break, how he could utilize resources that were in the room to provide him a break, and some of those self-monitoring things. By December, he was in school full-time and Mom and Dad were confident about him being in school full-time. He does now have an IEP and we now have connected them with some of the autism resources within the autism community. So I believe without that help, he would have been a kid with severe attendance issues we'd be dealing with as well as not have built that bridge with the parents to say, 'We're going to support you on this journey with us and we have resources available both to help "L" and to help you. … I don't think they would have enrolled him in the 4K program had it not been a site that had been as close to their home as it was.'"


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11. The 4K Community Approach program increases the likelihood that an infant, toddler, or preschooler with a delay or disability will be referred for an evaluation and early intervention services.

 

 

One result of the 4K Community Approach program has been increased contact between special education personnel and other support staff (speech and language teachers, physical therapists, etc.) from the public schools with the staff in the community sites. Sometimes, the school personnel visit the community programs specifically to work with four-year-olds. At other times, they observe or work with younger children at the sites. In both instances, there is an increased presence of special services staff in the community sites which has several important benefits for children younger than four-years-old including:

  • Staff from the community sites are more willing and able to contact the school district about younger children for whom they have concerns because they get to know and trust the school's special services staff and because they are more easily accessible since they regularly visit the community sites. As a result, there's an increase in referrals and early intervention services for younger children. Previously, the sites often felt like they were entirely on their own figuring out how to best meet the needs of children with special needs.
  • There is more outreach to parents as a result of the 4K Community Approach program and this increases the opportunity for early intervention. Whereas the school district previously would typically respond to calls from parents before doing an assessment, now the special services staff from the public schools and the staff from the 4K community venues are working together in identifying younger children warranting assessment.
  • Parents learn more about special services through their contact with the community sites, who in turn know more about the resources available and can access them more quickly through their increased contact with the public schools.

Linda Gratz, Former Director of Head Start and a member of the school board in Manitowoc, describes how the 4K Community Approach results in an increase in early interventions,

"One of the big issues for child cares and Head Start was identifying children with special needs and how you work with them. Having the 4K {community approach} made it work so much better because once the school district knew that this was their program, it became so much easier.

The school district allotted time for the people from the district to go into the child cares and Head Start to observe the children who were there. If you had particular problems with a child you were concerned about, you would let them know and they would set up a specific time to come in and observe that one child. Then they would work really closely with the staff members that were working with the child to give them strategies and things that they could do and resources that they could use with the child- whether it was a weighted vest that might be used on a child to make them be able to attend better or things like different sounds they needed to work on as far as speech was concerned or making adaptations in the classroom that would make it easier for them to learn. All of those things became easier because someone was assigned to that location to be the link, and so it became so much easier because there was that consistency. You knew who to go to, you knew that there was somebody there who could help you – it was so natural as opposed to having to figure who you should go to and having to make a formal referral. You were able to start the process without the formality."

Marcia Flaherty, the Director of Elementary and Secondary Education for the Manitowoc Public School District, explains how the collaborative nature of the 4K Community Approach program results in better meeting the needs of 4K and younger children,

"Our collaboration journey began with a multi-agency exploration of preschool options through several meetings and training sessions. We built our plans around a vision of providing a full continuum of services for children and families, making sure we had a place for every child. For children and families with child care needs, we wanted to include child care in multiple settings, in addition to education and other special services. There are many examples of informal professional development that have occurred because speech/language pathologists, 4K teachers, Birth to 3 service providers, and others dedicated to early childhood education have opportunities to discuss educational and behavioral strategies in support of children."


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