The Zero to Three Program serves infants and toddlers, from birth to age three, who are blind or severely visually impaired and their families. The program provides early intervention, training and a variety of services to help the infants and toddlers and their families maximize their development. Education, training and support are also provided to parents and family members, including in-home assistance, to optimize the child’s success. Services are provided in an inclusive setting which provides a natural environment and encourages the development of socialization and language skills for all the students. In 2011-12, we served 31 children and their families.
Research shows that children and their families who participate in early intervention are more likely to understand and address the child and family needs, to identify and access resources, and to master skills that strengthen the family. The Center’s comprehensive approach to meeting the entire family’s needs provides an experience that transforms challenges into opportunities.
Without special training, infants and toddlers who are visually impaired may not learn to hold their heads up, crawl or walk at an appropriate age. Gross and fine motor skills and language development may be seriously delayed. Tactile and sensory issues may prohibit their ability to engage in the world in ways that enhance development. They may not learn to accept solid foods or to feed themselves. Infants and toddlers and their families need intervention and training in order for the children to progress through normal developmental stages and grasp the basic concepts upon which future learning depends.
In the past five years, the Center has experienced a dramatic increase in the referral of children who are multi disabled and families with more social-emotional needs. The Center’s goal is to provide a comprehensive program of specialized education and training which will optimize the development and consequent opportunities for these children. The program further seeks to empower parents to build skills that enhance the child's mobility, independence and self-confidence. The program has the following objectives for the children: 98% will strengthen gross motor skills; 95% will enhance fine motor skills; 98% will have a reduction in feeding difficulties; 98% will strengthen early language development; and 98% will improve social and communication skills. The program objectives for parents are: 98% will strengthen parenting skills which enhance their child's development, 95% will demonstrate increased knowledge of child development, 98% will demonstrate awareness of their child’s diagnostic profile and the impact on their development, and 90% will utilize additional supportive resources.
Home services are used to assess the child and family needs. We help them overcome obstacles to service such geographic distance, lack of transportation, a child’s fragile health, limited resources and financial and emotional stress. We support them through the process of accessing appropriate services through community sources and the Center’s Zero to Three Program.
Infant Program (for ages birth to three years old) are held at the Center Monday through Friday from 9:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M. (morning classes) and 12:00 P.M. to 2:00 P.M. (afternoon classes). At least one parent or primary caretaker must participate with their infant on a regular basis. The classroom setting is designed to be a homey, comfortable environment. Most infants and parents attend classes two - three times a week. Classes operate under the guidance of the head teacher, the associate teacher, and the family worker.
Toddler program: As the parent and child become ready, children move into the toddler setting where they will attend a full day from 9:00 to 3:00 five days per week in a classroom with a teacher and assistant teacher. The issues of separation are addressed as the children are encouraged to become independent. Their developmental and educational goals continue to be evaluated and adjusted to meet their needs.
The Center’s specialists/therapists (listed under Program Staff) regularly work with the infants, toddlers and parents in the Infant Room, classrooms and on an individual basis. These specialized services are Orientation & Mobility (including pre-cane travel), Literacy, pre-Braille & Braille training (Adaptive Services), Speech & Language, Behavioral Interventions, Physical Therapy (gross motor skills), Occupational Therapy (fine motor skills) and Music as Therapy.
Using a coaching model, the Center staff work with parents on how to motivate and encourage their children in a number of ways, such as using voice, music or a noise-making toy to encourage infants to initiate independent movement (reaching, crawling or walking). While the Center's specially trained teachers work with the infants and toddlers in the classroom, we provide parents with opportunities to increase confidence and develop specific skills needed to work with their child.
All services are individually designed to address the specific needs of each child and family.
Emotional support for the parents is an equally important element of the Program. Feeling isolated or overwhelmed are but two of the many dynamics identified by research as challenges that families of children with a disability may encounter. Parent groups, socialization activities for families and an interactive parent-to-parent connection help address these issues and resolve such needs.
Additional activities for parents include support groups where parents can express and understand their own feelings about their child, and learn the parameters of special education and adjunct services. They gain information about how vision loss and other physical challenges affect their child's development, and they have access to professionals and other parents who share their experience. A Social Worker, family workers, a Parent Mentor and other specialists attend doctor visits with families to ensure a complete understanding of the child’s medical and diagnostic needs, providing support, advocacy, translation, and clarification. Staff is also available to attend meetings or consult with other adjunct service providers.
The Infant Program Team consists of Head Teacher Lilian Ulloa, M.A. in Special Education with Early Childhood option and Associate Teacher Ada Aguilera. The Toddler Team consists of Head Teacher Alicia Marquez, B.A. and Associate Teacher Sandra Huerta, Head Teacher Ray Ruiz, B.A. and Associate Teacher Yanet Huerta, and Head Teacher Veronica Proctor, B.A. and Associate Teacher Carmen Rosado. Therapists: Tritia Woo, Ph.D. is the Occupational Therapist. Bianca Ciebrant, M.A. in Special Education is the Orientation & Mobility Specialist and Assistant Director of Education. Rosa Tu, M.A. is the Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Rosalinda Mendiola, B.A. is the Adaptive Services Specialist. Family Services: Myrna Beit-Ayvaz and Yolanda Blancarte are Family Workers for the program, and Carlos Martinez and Lisbeth Flores are the bilingual Parent Mentors. Carlos and Lisbeth are each a parent of a graduate of the Center. Tyis Conner, R.N. is the Center’s full time school Nurse. The Zero to Three Program is supervised by the Center’s Director of Education and Family Services Fernanda Armenta-Schmitt, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist.
Each infant/child is evaluated with input from parents and the Center’s professional staff. The evaluations are used to determine the appropriate service provision (Individual Family Service Plan) to meet each child’s and the family's needs. Having participated in the development of the IFSP, the parents approve and sign the plan.
We work collaboratively with community providers and the family to ensure a full array of services and smooth transitions.
Evaluation of the Program is the responsibility of the Center's Director of Education and Family Services. Outcomes are measured through ongoing review of the IFSP. The plan includes objectives for the child and the family. The objectives are monitored and modified as appropriate, through sessions with the Center's multi-disciplinary staff, including teachers and specialists assigned to work with that child and the family. Goals may be modified as needed. At the end of the school year, all information on each child's progress is collated and reported to the Director of Education and Family Services. The team works in collaboration with community partners to ensure maximization of the child and family’s potential.
Cost of the Zero to Three Program in 2013-2014 is $576,758.
A. EDUCATION: $338,548
Includes: 4 Head Teachers, 4 Associate Teachers, Orientation & Mobility Specialist, 2 Occupational Therapists, Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Speech and Language Specialist, Music Specialist, Nurse and the Director of Education & Family Services
B. FAMILY SERVICES: $58,486
Social Worker, 2 Family Workers, and Parent Mentor
C. SUPPORT: $38,592
D. BENEFITS: $91,482
Payroll Taxes/Group Insurance/Workers Compensation
E. FAMILY SERVICE MATERIALS: $1,600
Family Education/Publications/Information & Referral
F. OCCUPANCY: $19,992
G. STAFF TRAINING: $1,500
H. SCHOOL EXPENSES: $18,540
I. OTHER: $8,018
TOTAL: $ 576,758*
* Note: The budget remains the same as the previous year.