Before I became involved with Easter Seals I had no idea that every year, almost 50,000 children in DC, Maryland and Virginia enter kindergarten with undiagnosed disabilities or delays. This is a huge problem for our community because those children have lost the opportunity to benefit from early intervention during the first five years of life, when 80% of brain development occurs. Often, despite the best (and very expensive) efforts of schools, these children can never catch up!
Easter Seals Serving DC|MD|VA is working to change that. Our Early Care and Education Program provides high-quality education and intervention for young children, where those with special needs learn right alongside their typically developing peers, a practice called “inclusion.”
Often I’m asked, “My child doesn’t have any special needs, so why would we benefit from sending them to an Easter Seals Child Development Center?” Because our incredible teachers and administrators are trained to serve children with special needs, I can give two answers:
1. Easter Seals provides stimulating educational experiences to promote each child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive growth and ensure each child reaches his or her full potential.
2. Because many delays and disabilities, such as autism, are diagnosed through observation as a child grows, we help parents understand if their child should be tested, and if a need is found we coordinate and provide therapy right in our Centers. This way, children receive the highest quality care in the natural environment, and parents are spared the logistical nightmare of coordinating and attending therapy sessions. This makes it easier for parents to juggle all their responsibilities.
Another organization that understands the pressures families face is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness. They educate the public on the conditions necessary for business and communities to thrive, and on emerging issues and creative solutions that will shape the future.
On June 21, they held an event to introduce a new initiative and report, "Workforce of Today, Workforce of Tomorrow: The Business Case for High-Quality Child Care," to explore the role of high-quality child care as a critical mechanism for strengthening the current and future workforce.
A distinguished panel of scientists, educators, public policy experts, advocates, and business leaders, including Easter Seals Emeritus Board Member Craig Ruppert of the Ruppert Companies, spoke at the event. They examined the concept of high-quality child care as not just a benefit for working parents, but also a critical component of America’s early education system.
As a Board Member, employer, and brother of a sibling who was helped by Easter Seals’ early intervention, Craig highlighted the importance of high quality, inclusive child care to benefit children, employees and employers.
At Easter Seals, we see the impact high-quality child care has on children and families every day. We are proud that business leaders like Craig allow us to show that our programs are an investment in the well-being of not just those we serve, but also in creating a strong workforce now and in the future.
If you are a business owner, executive, landlord or property manager, you have an opportunity to make a difference by enabling us to provide scholarships to children who need our services, but otherwise could not afford them. Increasing your commitment can allow Easter Seals to manage an inclusive center on your site, which can improve:
o productivity and retention if you are a business owner/executive;
o the attractiveness of your property if you are a landlord/property manager.
Please reach out to me if you’d like to learn more about ways to support or partner with Easter Seals.