Sunday, January 23, 2000

Disabled thrive at preschool

Lakota center to get award

Enquirer Contributor

        UNION TOWNSHIP — Before Katie Byrnes goes to bed each night, she takes out a spiral-bound notebook and goes through every page with her mother, Jayne.

        Each page has a picture of one of her 11 classmates, teacher or aide at the Lakota Early Childhood Center, where the 4-year-old attends preschool. Beside each picture is the person's name — in American Sign Language.

        “That's her way of having a conversation,” Mrs. Byrnes said of her multihandicapped daughter, who is deaf. “She won't go to bed without it.”

        Since starting at LECC in 1998, Katie has blossomed, Mrs. Byrnes said. She loves going to school so much that every time they drive past the school, Katie asks to go in.

        Mrs. Byrnes and several other parents of children with disabilities were so pleased with their children's progress they nominated the school for a Leadership Award through the Inclusion Network, an organization that promotes including people with disabilities in all aspects of the community.

        After an on-site visit, the LECC was notified it had won the award in the education category. It will receive the award during a dinner Monday at the Hyatt Regency in Cincinnati.

        “It was a surprise,” said Principal Matt Glover. ""We were thrilled. It means a lot to our teachers. We try to make our school welcoming and inviting for all children.”

        In each of the school's 16 preschool classes, half of the 12 children have special needs while the others are developing typically, Mr. Glover said.

        Mrs. Byrnes said Katie's teacher, therapists, interpreter and aides have done wonders with her daughter. Since coming to the LECC, she has learned to stand up to paint — her favorite activity.

        Rachel Dabe saw so much progress in Katie that she and her family moved from Loveland to Liberty Township so her 3-year-old daughter, Faith, who also has disabilities, could attend LECC. She, too, wrote a letter nominating LECC for the award.

        Besides the developmental progress their children are making, both mothers are pleased with the acceptance shown by the other students.

        ""Katie is a little girl who is packaged differently but inside is a very typical 4-year-old. She walks differently, talks differently, uses a different language but still loves Barbie and Pokemon. They like her.”


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