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Pilot Program Helps Teachers Better Educate Preschoolers With Learning Disabilities

Steven Depolo via Creative Commons

Teachers at six preschool programs in Utah are being trained in how to be more comfortable and confident teaching kids with developmental delays. It’s a pilot program born out of a partnership between the state office of education and the national Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center.  

The Northern Utah YMCA in Ogden serves about 85 children, mostly from immigrant and low-income families. Stella Patino is the early childhood education director there. She says the program has introduced teachers to ways of getting hard-to-reach kids engaged.

“So it’s not just a teacher reading a book,” Patino says. “The child is participating. Making sounds of the animals. Moving like the animals in the story. Incorporating a lot of language and actions and movements.”

In addition to the YMCA program in Ogden, the Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City as well as the school districts of Jordan, Sevier, Ogden and Washington County are getting this training.

All of the programs have a mix of kids with disabilities and their typical peers in the same classroom. Betsy Sutherland is the pre-school specialist for special education at the Utah Office of Education.

“We want them to be interacting not only with the teacher but with each other,” Sutherland says. “We know that children learn from each other more than from adults.”

Once the pilot ends, Sutherland says individual districts will be in charge of funding the programs. And teachers who received the training will pass the knowledge along to the next group of teachers. 

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