When I look back at 2018, I see much to celebrate. It certainly was a year to remember with regard to the advancements and changes made within the Elizabeth Lee Black School. As I worked on outlining these milestones, I realized just how much we accomplished. I shared with our Board of Directors last night and wanted to share with you as well.
In the past year, we began to see an increase in requests to consider enrollment of children without an Intellectual Disability but with Social/Emotional challenges. Our current license did not allow for this; we are approved to serve children with a diagnosis of autism, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, and muscular dystrophy. Our new licensure will enable us to expand in this direction.
In 2018 we have seen both new and continuing research collaborations. We are in the early stages of developing a project with Penn State Behrend and the University of Egypt. Engineering/psychology professors from Behrend are exploring the use of virtual reality to teach social skills to children on the spectrum and are asking us to assist them.
We also continue our work with Notre Dame to develop apps that promote social skills in children with disabilities, as well as with Penn State, Main Campus to study feeding patterns in children with autism.
As a worldwide manufacturer of communication devices, we continue our 9-year partnership with TD by field testing some of their devices with our students. This has allowed our children to experience the latest in technology as well as allow us to input in the development of devices and apps. We approached them to determine if there was interest in working with us with our adults. The answer was an overwhelming YES. We have 2 pilot projects in our homes in Pittsburgh and Erie with 3 of our adults. We are also exploring a classroom collaboration; we are so fortunate to be working with Marleah Herman-Umpleby, Clinical Outcomes Manager and Linnea McAfoose, Director of Clinical AAC Content.
BNI: A Teaching Institute
Hundreds of students have received their “hands on” training within our doors, whether it is in special education, psychology, nursing, or medicine, to name a few. We are currently slated for 98 student placements from schools such as Gannon, Clarion, LECOM, Slippery Rock, and Penn State.
This year, we expanded upon our understanding of how to define and identify trauma, and the myriad ways it may impact a child. We now know that over half of all children in the US have at least 1 traumatic experience. With this in mind, we have implemented UKERU: a safe, restraint free method to help caregivers manage stressful situations. The focus is comfort and understanding vs control. We have also implemented trauma informed professional development in many inservices to offer staff multiple outlets for support.
Educational Improvement Tax Credit
As an approved organization, businesses are able to secure tax credits by making donations to either our preschool scholarships or school improvements. In the past 3 years, we have given 160 scholarships to Erie County children whose families meet the income guidelines. Last year, we had an additional $57,000 to use on devices and curriculum that directly benefit our students’ programming.
This year we continued our efforts to improve the infrastructure of our school, with new furniture in behaviorally challenged classrooms, renovated restrooms, and a renovated cafeteria.
We have accomplished so much in 2018! I am looking forward to continuing these efforts and exploring new areas for growth and development. Yes, ELBS at the Barber National Institute is a great place to be!