Community Impact: Challenged Child and Friends
Started in 1985, Challenged Child and Friends is an early intervention center that provides therapeutic and educational services for children with disabilities alongside their typical peers. Clients are aged six weeks to six years.
Two things make the program unique: the fact that it serves both children with and without disabilities, and that fulltime nurses are on staff to meet medical needs of the preschoolers.
“In a classroom with 12 kids, seven may be challenged while five are typical,” says Executive Director/CEO Amy Gates. “This inclusion model works well. Kids with disabilities look to their typical peers to learn language and play skills, while typical children learn tolerance, compassion and inclusion.”
While all children benefit from the high quality education program and family support services, children with disabilities at Challenged Child and Friends can receive all necessary services in one place, freeing their parents from the necessity of making multiple stops at doctor offices, therapy centers and preschool.
“We’re a one-stop shop for all therapies, medical needs, education and so on,” says Gates. “Parents tell me they know their child is safe and getting the services they need while learning at the same time.”
A 1-to-4 teacher-student ratio means children with autism, Down’s Syndrome, seizure disorders, cerebral palsy or speech delays – as well as their typical peers – receive loads of individualized attention. In addition, a full time registered nurse and licensed practical nurse are on staff and therapists provide occupational, physical, speech and language, music and pet therapy.
“Medical needs are not seen to in the typical preschool,” says Gates, noting that the service is necessary for the children with disabilities and an extra bonus for those without.
School Principal Monique Jackson handles day-to-day operations at Challenged Child and Friends. The organization’s 70 employees include a family resources coordinator who helps families connect with community resources and a teaching and learning coordinator who oversees lesson plans and the quality instruction curriculum.
For 10 years, the Jackson EMC Foundation has funded early intervention and therapy services and helped financially strapped families pay tuition costs.
“Financial assistance to families is our biggest need, and the Jackson EMC Foundation allows us to say to families, ‘Hey, we can help you,’” says Gates, noting that 21 children were able to receive assistance, thanks to the most recent Foundation grant.
“Some children with financial need would not have been able to come at all without the grant,” she adds. “Jackson EMC members who give to the Foundation can feel good about their donations. These families are so happy, and we are so grateful.”
In 10 years, the Jackson EMC Foundation has awarded a total of $90,000 in grant monies to Challenged Child and Friends. For more information, visit www.challengedchild.org.