Jeff speaks with Wendy Partin, the Executive Director of the White Plains Children’s Center in Cary about what to look for in a learning environment, especially for children with special needs.

Look for more than the ABC’s and 1-2-3’s.

Many parents today are often focused on the academic component in education. To be prepared for kindergarten, they want their children to be able to read and write. Wendy explains that there is more to an optimal learning environment than academics. There are five domains of education where children need to have skills in order to function in a classroom setting:

  • Communication
  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Academic and cognitive readiness
  • Social and emotional skills

These five key areas are what to look for when looking for in an early childhood program, as opposed to just the ABC’s and 1-2-3’s. They should be incorporated into everything the children do throughout the day: whether it’s spending time in the centers, during meal times, playing outside, walking in the hallway or going to the bathroom. Educators can incorporate academics, but do it in a way that they are learning through play and everyday activities.

Have an environment for all abilities.

As far as looking for specifics in an educational environment for a child with special needs, Wendy believes that you should look for a center for children of all abilities. “If a place can serve children with special needs, it can be an exceptional environment for a child who is typically developing.”  Low teacher ratios are also important, as all children need one-on-one attention.

Look for more than a babysitter.

A priority should also be placed on teacher education. “You don’t just want someone who wants to babysit your child,” she said. “Look for teachers with degrees in birth through kindergarten education, are licensed through the division of public instruction, or have degrees in social work or psychology.” She added the importance of finding a program that values education and has a staff educated and knowledgeable about what’s developmentally appropriate for children.

The Center is having a fundraiser from September 1st through the 30th to be able to continue to provide programs and services to their students with special needs. To support the Center’s mission, please go to the following link: www.gofundme.com/mk297www. For more information about the school, please refer to their website: www.whiteplainschildrenscenter.org or call the Center: (919) 469-2217.