Santa Barbara County Education Office - ZACA Center



Inclusion

Leana Watson: Parent
The strength of ZACA, which is the total integration, really serves two purposes in my mind. It’s such a huge asset for the children who have special needs because they see proper peer modeling, they see speech behavior, patterning, social interaction, and drawing skills. It’s a huge and tremendous asset for the children that don’t have special needs, like my daughter, who is here now, because they are able to have a sense of compassion and a sense of inclusion that starts so early.

It’s amazing because there are so many of the children who don’t even realize that they are in a classroom with children who have special needs. It’s kind of like Sarah has blonde hair, Megan has brown hair, Alec takes a little bit longer to speak and I don’t do that. It’s just like another difference that is a very commonplace difference that they don’t even really notice. Their ability to help each other has been amazing and it’s been one of the things that we love the most about ZACA, because it really has given my child a place where he not only felt accepted, but was accepted.

McClain is my daughter, she is the youngest and she is four and a half. She has been here at ZACA from the time she was old enough to go to preschool. She does not have special needs. She is very outspoken, very social, and really is a child who has benefited from preschool in general, but has especially benefited from the situation here at ZACA.

I, of course, knew it was a fabulous preschool for children with special needs, but it is amazing to realize that of the children at ZACA, only 15% have special needs and the other 85% are getting this amazing education and amazing experiences, but they are also getting a great lesson, everyday, in compassion, in socializing with children who have different needs than they do, and different experiences than they do and they do it in such a way that is seamless.

Shelley Grand: Director
All of the preschool teachers are responsible for their goals, they know ahead of time, and they meet with the special day class teacher ahead of time. We spend a great deal of time collaborating with each other. All of the teachers know what the goals are, they work with the children on those goals, they collaborate with the parents to work on things at home, and they attend all the IEP meetings so they are always aware of what’s going on. They are fully responsible for that. It’s not just left up to the special day class teacher. It’s just a collaborative effort. Everyone works with all of the students, you won’t ever see that, “oh these are your students, and oh these are mine.” It’s just one big effort.

Sheila Ammons: Educator
The overall reason is that research tells us that kids learn best from each other. That means I can sit and work with a child and be working on a concept and they may not be that interested in what I have to say, but if they can see it in action with the other kids, that’s way more interesting than just working with an adult. So, research really tells us that kids are able to learn better from each other with some adult support.

It’s a pretty unique setting, and the benefits are really tremendous. The children without special needs learn so much about tolerance, diversity, and acceptance. Those are lessons that they will have with them as they grow up. Those are really important skills.