A story of how quality early learning programs make a difference.
Kelly was born with spina bifida, a condition that affects the spinal cord. She has been in a PennCares program since birth and was first seen through the Early Intervention Program. When she was not walking at age two-and-a-half, she was enrolled in the Peach Tree Kids’ Child Development Group which receives funding from United Way of Franklin County.
"Kids in the classroom don’t see disabilities, they only see other children who are their friends."
This Group is an integrated program that enrolls children with special needs and children who are developing typically. Sessions provide structured learning activities that foster speech and provide social and self-help activities that accommodate all ability levels of children ages 18 months to four years. The class size is limited to eight children to provide individualized attention.
“Kids in the classroom don’t see disabilities," Kelly’s teacher stated. “They only see other children who are their friends.”
With everyone’s help, Kelly was walking with support by age three. All through that time, her teachers and classmates were there to assist and encourage her. Because of their attention and support, she was walking on her own before she graduated from the program.
The next challenge came at four when she needed several surgeries to help correct the problem of her feet turning in.
At the time, there was nowhere else for her to go. Like so many parents of children with disabilities, Kelly's family became frustrated because she could not enroll in a “typical” preschool program. With the spina bifida, she was still needed to use diapers and could not tolerate a full day in a day care program. Most childcare programs would now allow a four year old in diapers. Other families in Group also expressed trouble finding preschools that could accommodate children with special needs when their children couldn't meet standards.
It was at that point, that the Peach Tree Kids’ Preschool was launched, with help from United Way of Franklin County. Kelly entered the pre-K classroom, and continues to thrive and is at the top of her class. The partnership between United Way and the Peach Tree Kid’s Preschool means that Kelly and other children will have the same opportunity to attend a quality preschool program that other children their age enjoy.