Family Child Learning Center's educational approach treats kids like their own

Alex attends FCLC's integrated research preschool

Alex attends FCLC's integrated research preschool

At 18 months, Alex Moff was an energetic and talkative toddler, with a vocabulary of 20 to 30 words. But at 26 months, those words were gone.

“He lost them all,” said his mother, Jennifer Moff. “He acted like he couldn’t remember or find them. They were ones he knew and used for months.”

Jennifer and her husband, Allen, also noticed other changes. Alex stopped answering to his name. He seemed withdrawn and not as friendly or outgoing. With the birth of her second son, Kyle, Jennifer at first speculated that Alex was adjusting to the new baby. However, she soon realized something else was happening.

“He was indifferent,” she said. “One night, Kyle was lying on our bed and Alex jumped up next to him. It scared Kyle, and he started to cry, but Alex didn’t react at all.”

With the growing concern for Alex’s speech, Allen and Jennifer took him for a speech and language screening at Akron Children’s. Results showed that he had expressive and receptive language disorders. After qualifying for the Ohio Help Me Grow program and receiving a subsequent evaluation, Alex met the criteria to receive early intervention services.

The Moffs were referred to the Family Child Learning Center (FCLC), a collaborative between Akron Children’s and Kent State University.

A Safe Haven

Jennifer was immediately impressed with the level of care they received. Several interventionists sat down with her and Allen to talk about their son.

“Everyone was interested in our boy before he was even theirs,” she says. “They weren’t interested in a diagnosis right away, and they didn’t want to label him. They wanted him to come, to get to know him, and to start working with him.”

Located in Tallmadge, Ohio, FCLC is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of children from birth to 5 with developmental concerns, as well as their families. For the Moffs, FCLC was exactly what they needed.

Together, the Moffs and the center’s early intervention team discussed the strategies Alex would need, and Jennifer and Allen were part of his caretaking team.

The Moffs began to learn responsive teaching strategies to help Alex. The techniques used at the center and in their home created play activities that helped Alex start to communicate again.

Before Alex turned 3, Allen and Jennifer took him to FCLC to meet with John Duby, MD, director of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Akron Children’s and medical director of the Family Child Learning Center. Alex was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Moff family

Moff family

A Place to Learn and Play

When Alex turned 3 and graduated from the early intervention program, Jennifer and Allen enrolled him in the center’s Integrated Research Preschool for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

“Our school provides an educational alternative,” said Abbie McCauley, director of the preschool. “With an increasing number of children being diagnosed with autism every year, we designed our school to meet parents’ concerns and keep them at the forefront in their children’s education.”

Serving children ages 3 to 5, the two preschool classrooms each accommodate five children who are on the autism spectrum, along with five typically developing peers. The integration approach greatly appealed to the Moffs.

The school‘s curriculum includes a collaborative training component for parents, providing them with intervention tools and helping them take their child’s learning beyond the classroom. It also promotes new educational strategies and programs through research, using technology like SMART Boards, iPads and video monitoring to support their activities.

The school also offers professional preparation for university students who seek careers in the education, intervention and research fields.

Donors help make learning possible

Many area children with autism learn and grow at the Integrated Research Preschool at Akron Children’s Family Child Learning Center. Dedicated teachers, directors, interventionists and aides help make it happen. But it takes something more to keep the good work going.

“Our preschool is a direct result of philanthropy,” said Marilyn Espe-Sherwindt, FCLC director. “Without it, we couldn’t have the preschool and afford the kind of environment that makes a difference for kids with autism.”

Half of the preschool’s operations are funded through grants, foundations and donors. Because of this support, enrollment is free for families. It also equips the classrooms and teachers with the right tools and resources.

To learn how you can support this program, call Mary Douglas, director of grants administration, at 330-543-3724.

Teach your children well
Publication: Children's Progress
Issue: Summer 2011

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