Our pre-school through 2nd-grade literacy program is among our most critical core services. Research has time and again linked early childhood education with higher educational attainment and employment. Similarly, studies reveal that as many as 70% of legally blind adults are unemployed, so for our student body, this remains the greatest obstacle they will face. Our highest goal through our Literacy efforts is to provide our students with skills that will launch their education and put them on the path to the highest level of education, employment, and self-reliance available to them.
The Infant Program serves approximately 35-infants who are blind or severely visually impaired each year, from birth to age three. The Infant Program builds upon the crucial parent/child relationship by teaching parents how to motivate and encourage their children in a number of ways: to initiate independent movement;l to sit and crawl; to overcome their fear of sudden noises; and to be open to new experiences, such as new tactile textures (e.g. solid foods). Infants and parents usually attend classes two to three times a week.
The Educational Preschool Program serves approximately 35 children age three to five years each year. The program provides comprehensive, individualized education and training in sensory development, orientation and mobility, occupational therapy (physical development), and speech/language development. Classes have a ratio of one staff member to three students and class size is limited to six students.
The Kindergarten Program serves children ages five to six years old and the 1st & 2nd Grade Program serves six to eight-year-olds. A total of 30 children typically are enrolled in these three grades. These programs offer a fully inclusive environment, meeting all state curriculum standards for the grade levels while continuing to provide support and expertise relating to visual impairments.
Due to advances in modern medicine, the biggest change we have seen in our student body is an increase in the number of children facing disabilities in addition to a diagnosis of a visual impairment. Our visually impaired students, 79% currently face additional disabilities. Our student body reflects the diversity of Los Angeles and our surrounding community. 64% Latino; 23% multiracial; 8% Caucasian; 3% African-American; and 2% Asian-American. More than 60% of our students are from families with income below the poverty line making our free early intervention servicers especially valuable to these families.