St. Johns County is a community that is rapidly growing, but what is the size of its heart?
After 20 years of successfully serving its community, the Therapeutic Learning Center
would like to find a place to call HOME!
This project will measure the love of our community’s heart for our most precious treasure, our children. More specifically, our children with special needs
view Architect's Drawing
Therapeutic Learning Center - A Charter School
To offer a fun and exciting environment which is enriched with stimulating activities, delivered by skilled professionals, giving each child a better opportunity to develop skills that can lead to a less dependent environment in the future.
We serve birth to-five-year old children with special needs through our Charter School preschool program. We also provide early intervention sessions through home visits for the birth to three-year-old children. We currently have 12 children enrolled in the Charter School program and one child enrolled in the early intervention sessions.
We currently have three full-time staff: one director/teacher, one teacher and one teaching assistant. We have three contracted therapists: one physical therapist, one speech therapist, and one occupational therapist.
TLC was started by a small group of parents of children with special needs. In the early 1980s there were no preschool services offered within the St. Johns County School District. The families wanted services for their children, but did not want to wait until their children were in kindergarten. Back then, before all the scientific studies substantiated the importance of early intervention, the parents knew that their children were missing out on prime learning opportunities. This group of parents approached the ARC to see what could be done. With assistance from the ARC, Representative Hamilton Upchurch approached the Florida Legislature for a special appropriation, and TLC was born in July 1986.
Nature of the Problem
There is a lack of quality services for children birth to five with special needs. TLC is currently serving less than 1% of the preschool population in the St. Johns County School District and is preparing to serve more. The Florida Department of Education currently has 313 children listed as enrolled in Exceptional Student Education (ESE) preschool program,
and 1,518 in Exceptional Student Education kindergarten programs. This data covers the three to five-year olds; it does not include the birth-to three population. There is also concern about the unknown numbers of children not receiving services because their parents are not aware of the existence of TLC.
With St. Johns County growing at the fast pace that it is (projected 20%), it is reasonable to expect rapid growth in the number of children needing the services of TLC to meet their very specific needs. If we were to serve 3% of the population of children in pre-K and kindergarten ESE we would have closer to 60 children enrolled in TLC.
Parents of children with special needs have earned the right to have a choice for meeting the needs of their children. Families of children with special needs have very specific requirements that should be addressed in an effective and efficient manner. Many parents dealing with the news of their child’s disability do not know where to turn. They need services that will radically change the course of their children’s future. It is everyone's best interest to help affect this change.
A larger facility. Our current space in the St. Johns County Health and Human Services Complex is licensed to serve 22 children. That number is based on the Department of Children and Families standard of 45 square feet per child. However, given that our program keeps a necessary 4:1 student teacher ratio, and our children require specialized equipment, a larger than normal space is needed. To prepare for the growth at the rate experts project, we need a much larger building to accommodate the anticipated need of our community.,
Equipment needs. The specialized equipment that we need is very expensive which is why we have had to make some of it last 20 years. A chair that a typical child would use to sit in costs about $25. A chair that most of our children need for safe positioning costs from $400 to $750. That is one example of the high cost of specialized equipment.
Updated computer technology. Our classrooms must be able to provide cutting-edge learning experiences to accommodate learning differences that vary significantly.
We also need to improve communication with existing programs and the health care community to offer families a valuable option. We need to educate the community to better understand the broad scope of services that we offer.