SPICE: The teachable moments of a special needs Clarkston preschool
It only takes a moment to know.
The kids in this preschool are engaged. Teachers and the paraprofessionals love working with children and are looking into their eyes for those teachable moments. Melinda Orbrian, Special Education teacher, says those moments are happening all day long. She should know! She creates them!
SPICE, a Clarkston, Michigan preschool program for special needs children (aged three to five years old) provides half day services to students. The children are referred by parents, other preschools, doctors and word of mouth. Once accepted into our program, “our team develops a program for them, consisting of a physical therapist, occupational therapist, special education teachers and paraprofessionals,” says Melinda. There is also DOLLS, a program that provides services to children from birth to three years.
“Our preschool program looks like any other preschool program — if not better than most. We have the children involved every minute they are here,” Melinda explains.” We have greeting times, what we call centers—where we work on exploring and handling sensory materials, listening, expressing, reading, storytelling and retelling, dramatic play, math, science and field trips.”
“I especially love the field trips,” Melinda says, “some times it is certain smells or touching something or various sounds … that bring a certain child alive”. We are looking for those moments when a child does something they have not done before, explores their surroundings or simply enjoys themselves!” Our job is to provide a stimulating learning environment and just keep believing in the kids. We keep the world active and we are always talking and expressing.
Of course, this environment does not happen on its own. The curriculum has been developed, refined, researched over the last thirty five years SPICE has been in existence. Melinda gives professional credits to her mentors that have worked with her over the years at SPICE, for their commitment and knowledge of child development,language development, disabilities and teaching approaches. Also, it is the participation of the parents that helps the program, Melinda adds.
SPICE offers a great deal of interaction with parents. Many parents have some natural apprehensions about participation in our program. They may be just learning about what their child’s disability is or not really sure yet. We are very careful not to label our kids … we share performance and progress with parents and spend time listening and sharing with them. We know it may not be an easy time for all the parents. SPICE is a place where we really care about both children and their parents and where, after all, kids can just be kids and play and laugh together.
We encourage parents to come in and observe and get involved in the program, Melinda says. She reflected that she really cannot see herself working anywhere else. SPICE provides the children with a warm, nurturing, academic environment where they are encouraged and stimulated in all cognitive and language domains. And the fact is, watching Melinda and her colleagues interact with the children, it does not take long to know what she is talking about! Those teachable moments are happening at SPICE every day.