The ChildBridge Center for Education is celebrating 10 years of changing lives for students with autism and developmental disabilities. The therapeutic day school is one of the most influential services provided because of you – unlocking the potential of people with autism and other developmental disabilities anywhere from ages 10 to 21.

The dynamic learning space first opened its doors in 2011 — coinciding closely with the launch of Little City’s Duffey Family Children’s Village — and welcomed a small group of three students. Since that time, both the Village and Center for Education have grown together as the school now serves 38 students, virtually all of whom live at Little City.

“One of the biggest areas of growth since the school opened has been in the relationship with the residential staff,” said Jessica Kingji, school therapy and clinical coordinator. “The communication between the homes and school is so strong now that the children are really getting a comprehensive and consistent approach in how they learn.”

Your help with a major expansion in 2015 is what allowed the school to grow into what it is today. The expansion included an overall doubling of size with four additional classrooms, a life skills lab, vocational lab, library/media center, two therapy rooms and a sensory gym. In non-pandemic times, the community is also a big part of the classroom as some students take up to three community trips a week to learn skills such as grocery shopping, accessing emergency services, volunteering and other vital social skills.

Phil Siegel, principal of the Center for Education, said regardless of what activity or class a student is engaged in, the priority is always engaging them with the learning method that works best. Whether it is through visual cues, a more hands-on experience or even through music and Day School to Celebrate Ten Year Anniversary singing, the staff at the Center for Education bring a specialty in reaching students with autism and developmental disabilities that cannot be replicated at traditional schools.

“Our staff does an amazing job of connecting with each student and learning how each communicate and what they need,” Phil said. “It is incredible to see what a student can learn when they start to feel like they are understood and can express themselves.” It was an idea that was misunderstood in the 1980s and 90s, as the push to have students with significant autism and other developmental disabilities in traditional schools led to Little City closing the doors of its first school, which had started in 1964.

Public policy leaders soon realized those students were getting fewer opportunities to succeed at overburdened traditional school districts and schools like the Center for Education once again became a vital resource. With specialized programs such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and art and music therapy, there is no shortage of specialized approaches to support students. And as the school starts to build toward the next 10 years, they hope to continue bringing in more students at younger ages.

“The earlier you can reach a student with autism and developmental disabilities, the better chance they will have to build life skills,” Phil said. “So we hope to bring in more students earlier in their education in the next few years.”

Anyone interested in learning more about Little City’s ChildBridge Center for Education should contact Phil Siegel at psiegel@littlecity.org.