Excellence in Education
The Center provides special education services to a total of 274 school age children, 110 of which are day students.
A developmental approach is adhered to in our education program, and children are recognized for the qualitative differences in the way they learn and develop. All children begin learning by physically experiencing the world through their senses and by observing and engaging with others. In the beginning, these experiences and interactions are often concrete and literal. Once a child grasps an understanding of the basic principles of how the world operates, they progress to more mental representations and thinking.
The environment created at The Center for Discovery fosters supportive friendships and integrates academic experiences taking full advantage of the natural setting of the landscape. Natural landscapes and nature are known to reduce stress and anxiety and improve positive thinking. Nature also allows children to explore thematic questions about the world in which they live. Drama, play, music and movement are used to engage the body and the mind in learning socialization, communication and academic skills.
Academics are a critical part of the school program. Although many children enter the program with significant learning challenges such as limited communication and self-help skills, decreased motor skills, and maladaptive behaviors, they are quite capable and motivated to learn when given the right type and amount of instruction. We incorporate English Language Arts (reading, communication and writing), and Math as the core components of the curriculum. Science and Social Studies are taught and explored through a hands-on, outdoor-based practical component of the curriculum.
Creative arts including music, dance and drama are taught through individual and small group lessons, concerts, plays and workshops. The arts are used to teach and reinforce communication, social interaction skills, and self-efficacy. Twice a year, a group of students and staff chose a play that requires all types and levels of interactions including actors, directors, stage hands, costume and set design, music, and technology supports. The staff and students practice multiple times per week for several months on the production as part of the curriculum. And others work to support the backstage functions. Student IEP goals are integrated into the preparation and ultimately the final production. Notable is the sense of self and self-confidence that are highly evident through these productions. The play brings together each of the schools, the parents, and other Center staff, building community and representing our philosophy at The Center for Discovery.
A functional curriculum including life skills is a critical part of daily instruction and practiced in school as well as in the home environments. Students work to acquire the skills needed to be self-sufficient in basic self-care and in daily living. Skills such as dressing appropriately, following daily routines, housekeeping, dining with others, bathing and body care, telling time, money management, shopping and using public transportation are taught to each student as appropriate for their skill level. Skills are practiced in multiple environments under multiple conditions to ensure learning. Maximizing independence is at the heart of the functional life skills curriculum. In addition to promoting developmentally-based skills, The Center uses the BASICS2 and the Assessment of Functional Living Skills curriculums.
Vocational programs begin when a student reaches the age of 15 or tenth grade and continues until the student ages out of the program at age 18. Initially parents and professionals work together with the student to expose them to a wide variety of job opportunities in order to develop a vocational program that matches their desires and skills. Understanding what skills and behaviors are necessary to be employable in the community is the first step in designing a realistic program. Teachers and clinicians work with the young adult, their school district and family to develop realistic goals that align with where the individual will be living and working in adulthood. The Center’s program offers opportunities for Culinary Arts, Clerical and Business Skills, Animal Care and Production, Environmental Management, Gardening and Farming, Hospitality, and Purchasing and Delivery.
Transition programs begin upon graduation at age 18. During the time between graduation and adult placement, the team works with the young adult, their family, OPWDD, and other stakeholders to find one of New York State’s wide arrays of appropriate adult program options that are preferably close to home. The child can age out of the transition program at The Center anytime during the three year period when an adult placement becomes available. Parents need to work closely with their respective DDRO to find adult day and residential opportunities. The Center offers transitional supports as needed for individuals transitioning into adult programs.