Thursday, May 18, 2006
SEHS to support more children with special needs
By Karen Hildebrandt, contributing writer
Several generous gifts will allow OU’s School of Education and Human Services to expand its innovative programming, touching the lives of more children considered high risk educationally due to developmental disabilities.
“These recent grants help to foster Oakland University’s overall mission of embracing diversity and providing exceptional educational practices,” said Tiffany Wright, director of the Lowry Center for Early Childhood Education.
The Lowry Center, along with Jack’s Place for Autism at OU, will receive grant funding to significantly expand their services for special-needs children.
Jack’s Place at OU, which provides resources, support groups and recreational programming for children with autism spectrum disorders and their families, received a $20,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan. The Lowry Center received a Community Foundation grant for about $5,000 and two additional grants, totaling $26,400, from the Michigan School Readiness Program.
Jack’s Place at OU currently reaches about 250 children with autism spectrum disorders and their families through activities such as basketball, baseball, soccer and swimming.
“The $20,000 grant has allowed us to hire a coordinator to oversee programs,” said Jack’s Place at OU Director Jessica Watson. “With one person focused on programming, we can dramatically expand our services, which brings us closer to our goal of making sure children with autism have all the same opportunities as other children.”
Jack’s Place at OU also recently launched an art program that uses hands-on manipulation of different art mediums to improve and encourage skills in fine motor development, following directions, socialization, creative thinking and cooperative interactions.
“The next few years will be exciting as we expand our programming based around the children’s needs and interests,” Watson said. “Whatever the children want to explore, we want to make those opportunities available from drama and music to sports and fitness.”
The Lowry Center will use its Community Foundation grant to purchase playground equipment to promote sensory integration and cooperative play among special-needs children. The special equipment will be adaptive to children with specific physical disabilities, but it also will encourage interaction among playmates. For example, one child may be able to pedal a bicycle that allows another non-mobile child to be pulled in an attached wagon.
“The grant will help the center immensely in meeting its mission for delivering high quality and accessible early childhood programming,” Wright said.
The two additional grants from the Michigan School Readiness Program (MSRP) will promote diversity at Lowry by allowing the center to enroll children considered high risk due to economical or developmental factors.
In addition, Lowry received federal grant money through the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program to offer free tuition for children whose parents attend OU on a federally funded Pell grant.
The MSRP grant will offer full tuition for eight high-risk students, while the CCAMPIS program will allow OU students the opportunity to enroll their own children in the center.
“The extra funding has made it possible for children with special needs and backgrounds to benefit from educational services at Lowry,” Wright said. “In addition, Oakland University students benefit by being exposed to an inclusive setting that embraces diversity and exceptional educational practices.”