Early Childhood Special Education – A Family Story

Early childhood special education can be a critical component to the success of children with special needs. At the Watson Institute, early childhood programming includes LEAP Preschool, a program which integrates young students with autism spectrum disorder alongside their typically developing peers.

The inclusive learning environment created in this unique program allows students with autism to learn and model their behaviors after those of their typical peers. Not only are the students learning from one another, but they are also making friends and forming important social bonds.

“It was about building that foundation.” shared Mr. and Mrs. Ifft, parents to Aaden (7) and Jacob (5), both former LEAP Preschool students with autism spectrum disorder. “These interactions with other kids showed them it’s okay to be you, but this is how you can focus your energy.”

Finding an Early Childhood Special Education School

When Rebecca and husband Roger received the autism spectrum disorder diagnosis for Aaden, they were overwhelmed and were not sure where to turn for answers and resources.

“We had done our own research and found nothing but positives about Watson. We were told that Watson was the place to go for children with special needs,” said the Iffts about their search for special education programs for their children.

Once Aaden graduated from LEAP, he transitioned into the local school district for a brief period of time before returning to Watson to enroll in the WISCA program.  The Iffts recalled the day Aaden toured the Sharpsburg location where WISCA is held, “He said, ‘I get to sit with everyone else? I get to go here?'”

When Jacob was also diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder the following year, the Iffts knew where to turn. After Jacob graduated from LEAP, he transitioned directly into the Education Center Sewickley programming at Watson and has experienced success with the help of his special education teachers, aides, and therapists.

Early childhood special education helps to build a foundation for students with special needs to achieve continued success. Through early childhood programming, Aaden and Jacob were able to build a foundation of learning that continues to support their progress.

“It really is a place that helps the entire family. The staff care just as much for my child’s best interests as we do and they really treat each child based upon their individual needs.”