Creating More Opportunities for Children’s Development

The Chicago Lighthouse’s Children’s Development Center (CDC) school is getting an upgrade. Thanks to grants from the State of Illinois and The Service Club of Chicago, a longtime supporter of The Lighthouse, we will be adding several new rooms to expand the number of students we can work with and serve as a better resource for our families.

“We want to be a hub for family support and community services to help our kids gain access to necessary programs and devices to help them thrive in school and life,” says Jordan Owens, Vice President of Educational Services and Director of Special Education.

The Children’s Development Center offers comprehensive and functional education for students with profound to severe disabilities, including those who have Autism Spectrum Disorder and other sensory processing disabilities. As a result, a key component of the renovation will be an expanded sensory room, that will include three separate areas to provide different types of stimulation. One area will include swings and other equipment for students to burn off excess energy and serve as a place for adaptive physical education. A second area will be a “Snoozelen Room,” a multi-sensory area that includes gentle lighting, relaxing sounds, calming scents and textures.  “It also works well for kids with visual impairments because it helps with visual skills training,” Jordan says.

In addition, we are creating a family resource center that will offer a space for music, art, group literacy and other enrichment programs for children and their families, including those in the Birth-to-Three Program. The family resource center will also be a place for parents and other family members to meet and build their support networks.

“Just as much as kids need support, our parents and families need support too,” Jordan says. “Having a child with a disability is challenging, and having a community of support is critical.”

Finally, the CDC will also add an additional classroom, which will open enrollment for kindergarten, first- and second-grade students. (The CDC’s enrollment currently begins at third grade.) Expanding enrollment in the CDC will give our teachers the ability to work with students who have severe disabilities earlier to create stronger educational and behavior foundations.

“What we’re seeing is younger students being identified as needing services and not enough placements,” Jordan says. “When students have to wait for services, they develop behaviors that may not benefit them in the long term.”

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