:: Daily Herald | At-risk students get helpearly ::

At-risk students get help early

Dist. 220 program isn’t day care, officials say

By Chad Brooks
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Friday, April 06, 2007

For many children in the Barrington area, their classroom education starts long before they show up for the first day of kindergarten.

Many attend preschool. Others, however, need specialized instruction — the kind offered by Barrington Area Unit District 220’s early childhood program.

The early childhood program is state-mandated for identifiably “at-risk” 3- to 5-year-olds.

Voters will decide April 17 whether to give District 220 $15.9 million and the authority to buy a new building to house its early childhood center.

Meanwhile, District 220 officials close to the early childhood program say there is a misconception that it is, in essence, nothing more than publicly funded day care.

Connie Simon, District 220’s director of special services, said that is not the case. Children in early learning classes have diagnosed disabilities or otherwise meet criteria for being considered educationally at-risk. All the students go through extensive testing before they are admitted, she said.

“These are children who are developmentally delayed, have speech and language needs, autism, or are health-impaired,” to name some of the criteria, Simon said.

Once enrolled, children get academics to encourage early literacy, mathematical thinking, physical development, and personal and social development. They also get assistance based on their individual needs for speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Simon said each child’s program is individual.

Jennifer Bulandr knows firsthand the early childhood program isn’t just day care.

She enrolled her son, Joshua, the first day he was eligible — his third birthday.

Joshua, who Bulandr and her doctors believe suffered a stroke while still in the womb, could not speak. At 3, he was using only crude sign language to communicate. Continue

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