July 12, 2017
In child care and early education, inclusion means inviting all children to participate in a child care program and intentionally planning for ways to help every child be successful, regardless of their ability. At Prime Time Youth Activity Center in Calvert County, inclusion has been part of the program from the start.
Susan Newton, director of the Prime Time Youth Activity Center, remembers a young boy who had cerebral palsy when she first began with Prime Time over 25 years ago. The child wore braces on both legs, and Susan had asked the owner at that time, “But what if he falls?” The owner’s response was, “We will help him up.”
Prime Time has stayed true to that statement by welcoming and working with children who have a wide range of unique needs, including food, plant, and temperature allergies, sensory disorders, and hearing and vision impairments. They have also worked with children who have had medical issues including cystic fibrosis, immune deficiency, diabetes, and cancer. In order to accommodate the children with these various needs, Susan’s staff expanded their knowledge by taking classes, meeting with parents, and even discussing various strategies with the children.
When staff is educated, “this helps to ensure they feel comfortable handling whatever situation might come before them,” Susan explained.
Part of working with children who have unique learning and health needs is using the resources available in one’s community. Susan’s program frequently uses the Calvert County Board of Education speech, hearing, and occupational therapy referrals in addition to Project First Choice, Project Art, Autism Project, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Other engaging resources used by Prime Time include the local fire department, the railroad museum, Calvert Marine Museum, and the Twin Beach Players Theatre of the Arts. Prime Time also partners with a local high school Future Business Leaders of America to provide their students with the opportunity to understand the business aspects of child care and early education and to experience what inclusion means from all perspectives.
“All children come to us with different abilities and disabilities, but they are children and we believe that they all should have the same opportunities,” Susan said.
We appreciate the inclusive environment your program provides to our entire community!