Palmetto Parent 2010 August issue : Page 13

“We’re not only here for the kids, we’re here for the parents. We focus on the positives and they are able to see them in the classroom.” — Kay Richardson, director They work with the parents on specific goals we are working with at home. They love each and every one of these children and it shows. In return, you can tell that the kids love to be there.” Sabrina Cornell’s son,Anthony, 4, is finishing the program. That reality is bit-tersweet for Cornell. “Anthony has Down syndrome,” she said. “We put him there when he was 2 years old. He was very quiet.He is so much better — he talks so much, knows his colors, he can count to 30. Epworth is the best place. They just know what to do.” Richardson can recount many similar sto-ries of children with language delays,Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, sensory deficits, delays due to prematurity or illness, as well as typically developing children who benefit from the program’s 3-to-1 teacher-student ratio and diverse classes. Children do not need a diagnosis or referral to attend. “We purposely opened it up that way so we could serve children who would fall between the cracks,” Richardson said. “Chil-dren with developmental delays benefit from having peer models. The peer models benefit because they can focus on individual needs. It’s a win-win for everybody. It gives them a good start in life for being accepting of individual differ-ences in people.” An aide also has Down syndrome and serves as a role model for children, adding a perspec-tive that helps both teachers and students. Richardson said so much of the program’s benefit is August 2010 found in the pos-sibilities presented to children and parents. “We’re not only here for the kids, we’re here for the parents,” she said. “Most of their experience is with therapists and doc-tors where they are talking about what their children can’t do. We focus on the positives and they are able to see them in the classroom.” The center also How to find out more Epworth Early Intervention Center has several openings for children ages 1 – 4. The program is tuition-based, but much of the cost is offset by donations. Through 2010, BlueCross BlueShield is matching any business contributions to the center up to a total of $50,000. For enrollment or donation information, visit www.epwortheic.org or call 212-4768. contracts with the South Caro-lina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs to provide home-based intervention, including developmental activities and coordination of services. Parents of children in the Epworth Early Intervention Center also serve in a monthly respite cooperative approxi-mately once every six months. Teachers and volunteers at the center care for students once each month so parents can have an often much-needed evening to them-selves. “They are so ap-preciative,” Rich-ardson said. “That makes it all worth it. Plus,we have fun.” Richardson herself seems to have www.palmettoparent.com Gage Wrenn, left, gets a big hug from Anthony Cornell on graduation day. fun every day, soaking up three decades of memories with children. “It’s kind of who I am and what I do,” she said. “I am retirement age, but what would I do if I retired? It’s a fun place to be. When the kids run in and give me a hug and call me ‘Miss Kay,’ it’s very, very special.” Davis said the center’s unique program and its affordability are invaluable to parents who have few, if any, other options for preschool. “We can’t leave Clara with anyone really,” she said. “Whenever I drop her off at Ep-worth, I feel completely comfortable. This program is one of a kind.” As Cornell looks ahead to life without the center, she said its impact on her son will last a lifetime. “I couldn’t have asked for a better place,”she said. “It helped me become a better mom.”] Palmetto Parent 13

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