Jan 07, 2020
From Early ACCESS to Early Childhood, a Partnership Focused on Student Success
Back row, left-right: Mid-Prairie West Elementary Principal Bill Poock, GWAEA School Social Worker Lynne Currie, GWAEA Itinerant Preschool Teacher Jessica Roman, Early ACCESS Service Coordinator Rachel Ronan. Front row, left to right: Mid-Prairie Early Childhood Specialist Amanda Smith, Mid-Prairie Preschool Teacher Dianna Geiger, GWAEA Speech-Language Pathologist Sue Kos, GWAEA Speech-Language Pathologist Whitney Achenbaugh.
There are 1,000 days in a child’s life before starting kindergarten. A child with special needs that has been supported through Grant Wood AEA’s Early ACCESS team during those 1,000 days experiences an important transition at their third birthday. This is the time when a child that has been receiving support through the state’s Early ACCESS program officially exits Early ACCESS services and transitions to supports available through a local preschool, child care center, family child care provider’s home, Head Start, or a preschool classroom for children with special needs.
And when that child enters the Mid-Prairie Community School District, they are embraced during this transition by staff who recognize that this can be a somewhat stressful time for families.
Mid-Prairie West Elementary Principal Bill Poock described, “Imagine that you are walking into a school conference room for the first time and you see 12 or 13 people sitting around the table, waiting for you and your child. All these new faces are waiting to learn about your child. Waiting to help you draft a plan for your child’s future learning,” Bill said.
The Mid-Prairie and AEA teams partner together to help build trust during this important time. “Serving as a principal for our youngest learners affords me the opportunity to witness the interplay and true collaboration between Grant Wood AEA’s Early ACCESS team and the school-based Early Childhood team in its purest form,” he said. “We partner to make this journey a success for families, children, and for educators.”
The transition planning actually begins in the early years of Early ACCESS services, and culminates in a meeting with the family, the district and Grant Wood AEA staff. During the meeting the team will review evaluation and assessment data, and together build a plan to develop a comprehensive plan to support both the child and the family during the child’s early preschool years.
“We spend time talking with the family about their hopes and dreams for the child’s future,” explains Grant Wood AEA Itinerant Preschool Teacher Jessica Roman. “We want to share the child’s strengths and interests and to ensure everyone really understands the whole child.”
“It’s our job to instill in parents the feeling that our teams care about their child and want to see the child succeed...no matter the disability,” adds Bill.
Together, the AEA and Mid-Prairie teams celebrate the student during this transitional time period. “We want to make sure we celebrate the kids: we can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s all about the kids!” He continued, “I want to commend both our GWAEA Early ACCESS team and our school-based Early Childhood team for all of their work to make this a positive experience for our families and for our children. It takes all of us to work together and the work is so worth it. It is our partnership that makes the whole journey successful.”