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Early intervention helping kids succeed later in life

NewsChannel 13 continues to shine a spotlight on students with special needs and how they're impacted by Common Core, but what we found is that it's important parents get help for their kids-- long before they enter school.

Those who know Sheri Townsend know helping children is her passion. NewsChannel 13 was there in 2005 when she discussed the lack of summer jobs for kids in Albany. That same year, she embarked on another passion, and quit her job to help kids with learning differences.

“My husband and i pooled our resources and life savings and we opened the Spotted Zebra Learning Center,” Townsend explained.

Six children were enrolled that year including her own son.

He didn't focus. He was hard to engage. Almost impossible to engage,” Townsend recalled.

At 18 months, he was diagnosed with autism. Because she worked for the city of Albany, she was aware of the importance of early intervention programs

Provided by county services for kids under three.

“I think families are at a disadvantage until there is a need. It’s a very challenging system to navigate,” Townsend said.

Her son made such great gains through early intervention that he no longer qualified for the programs, but she's sure he wouldn't have had a strong foundation without early help.

“Our pediatrician he said without the help he could have had problems all his life,” Townsend said. Now, there are 60 students in the Spotted Zebra Pre-School and integrated kindergarten classes. An indoor multi-sensory activity center helps stimulate development of fine and gross motor skills and cognitive development.

Many have come to see Townsend as an advocate for special needs kids, so she's gotten lots of calls from parents worried about how common core will impact their kids.

She says creating standards and high expectations is good-but special needs kids learn differently.

“For children with an IEP, the Common Core may not be as important to our children,” Townsend said. “Unfortunately, the Common Core says all kids are going to reach the standards.”

NewsChannel 13 will discuss the issue of Common Core and learning disabilities Thursday night, September 18.

A few seats are still available for our education nation forum at SEFCU on Patroon Creek Boulevard in Albany.

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to attend.