By Greg Ludlow, Vice President of TLC Board of Directors, Finance Committee member
TLC is One of the BEST Childcare & Preschool Centers for All Kids
The Tiny Tim Learning Center was founded many years ago by a dedicated group of parents of children with special needs. My step-daughter, Casey, was one of the early enrollees. She is 41 today, lives on her own, and is largely self-sufficient, thanks to her involvement with places like Tiny Tim (now called TLC) and the wonderful people who worked there throughout her young life.
Casey in preschool while attending Tiny Tim
When she entered Longmont High School, attending a few classes with typical children was called “mainstreaming.” Today, having children with special needs in a class with typical children is referred to as an “inclusive classroom.” The world is a better place today because of inclusive classrooms like those at TLC, where special kids like Casey aren’t locked away from their peers at a young age. This was the driving philosophy behind the founding of Tiny Tim, and remains the mission of Tiny Tim, called TLC, today: Kids with special needs and kids with typical development should learn side-by-side in inclusive classrooms to benefit both the children with special needs, and the children with typical development.
Candidly, TLC has little issue with attracting children with special needs to enroll in its programs. TLC’s long-standing reputation as a wonderful early childhood education program for children with special needs is just as well-deserved today as it was when my step-daughter attended. Even though the name has changed from “Tiny Tim” to “TLC,” the mission, the standard of care, and the quality of the education and services to families remains the same. Because of TLC’s reputation and word-of-mouth referrals, TLC almost always has a wait-list for children with special needs to enroll in its classrooms.
The wait-list stems from TLC’s commitment to classroom ratios of 6:4, meaning classrooms are comprised of 60% children with typical development, and 40% children with special needs. This is a research based best-practice ratio to ensure each child receives the maximum attention, care, and service needed to build kindergarten-readiness.
TLC classrooms and teachers help ALL children learn positive behavior, learn critical early-learning concepts, grow up healthy, make friends, and become kindergarten-ready
Despite TLC’s ability to prepare EVERY child for success in kindergarten and beyond, enrolling the typical child has proven to be a difficult task for TLC. TLC’s most common feedback is that families don’t know TLC serves typical kids as well as kids with special needs. This misunderstanding is disappointing, in that TLC can only enroll more children with special-needs when there is a sufficient enrollment of typical kiddos to create the 6:4 ratio in every classroom.
Thus, the recent name change from The Tiny Tim Learning Center to TLC Learning Center. It is the Board of Director’s and the staff’s hope that the name will decrease the misconception that TLC doesn’t serve typical children with the high-quality education they need. TLC absolutely serves typical children with research-based curriculum, outstanding and caring staff, and carefully monitored progress of skill acquisition and development using the Teaching Strategies GOLD assessment portfolios.
Beginning in 2013-2014, TLC teachers switched from paper portfolios to virtual portfolios, so all preschool student achievement and growth data was collected online, making it easy for data to be shared with kindergarten teachers after students graduate from TLC. The Educational Services Manager, Cindy Wickham, collected data on TLC students for the Board in August, 2014. The data included: percentage of TLC students leaving for kindergarten who were “kindergarten ready” based on Literacy and Math (achievement), and the number and percentage of students who were meeting or were above the expected growth. This growth data was aggregated by age (3-4 year olds, and pre-kindergarten/4-5 year olds). The growth data was collected in each of the following areas: social-emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, and mathematics. The results are highly indicative of TLC’s success in preparing ALL children for success upon entering kindergarten:
Achievement data: Of the eleven students who left TLC at the end of 2014 to enter kindergarten, 94% were “kindergarten-ready” based on math and literacy data collected in GOLD portfolios.
Growth data: In the 3-4 year old group, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding growth expectations was between 87% (language) and 96% (social emotional). In the 4-5 year old group, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding growth expectations was between 94% (literacy & mathematics) and 100% (cognitive and social-emotional).
These results are especially noteworthy, when one remembers that TLC’s classrooms are not 100% typically developing children, but include 40% children with special needs.
Infant & Toddler Care at TLC, and Preschool Open Enrollment
The Board and staff’s desire to better share with the community our work with typical children also triggered our interest in launching Infant & Toddler childcare. TLC now provides inclusive, high-quality, Four Star Qualistar Rated Infant & Toddler childcare five days a week to better serve families, and to create a continuum of care for children from birth to five.
This is why I am writing this article. We need your help letting the community know that we serve typical children as well as special needs children, all while maintaining our same mission to provide comprehensive early childhood education and therapeutic services to assist each child in reaching his or her highest potential. Please take a moment and think of parents with newborns or infants and refer them to us, either by calling (303)776-7417 or by emailing Cindy Wickham at CWickham@LearningWithTLC.org.
While TLC is a 501(c)3 non-profit, it operates as a business in order to be able to fulfill our mission. As with any other business, operating at full capacity would allow us to both operate more efficiently and offer more children the opportunity to grow, learn, and become better prepared for entering grade school.
TLC’s Impact on My Family
Casey and her brother, Tom
And if I might make it more meaningful by sharing a personal experience, please keep reading. Cathy and I met and blended our existing families in 1983. She had Casey, and I had two daughters. Shortly thereafter, our son, Tom, announced his pending arrival. Fast forward to Tom’s first day of kindergarten at Hygiene Elementary. Cathy was a panic stricken mother-bird when he did not get off the afternoon bus. Tom called her a short time later to say his friend, who was born with a cranial birth defect, was being teased on the bus by some older boys, and Tom was afraid to get off and leave him alone with those boys. So Tom rode the whole way home with his friend. I have been proud of my son many times in his life, but never more so than that day. He learned to be such a sensitive and caring person in large part by being raised with an older sister with Down syndrome. This is the type of compassionate behavior children with typical development learn in addition to literacy and math skills, by being in classrooms alongside children with special needs.
Don’t you want that same thing for your child, grandchild or just a young neighborhood kid? That is what an inclusive classroom setting offers, among many other positive learning experiences for typical kids.
Telling the community what we do and who we serve to help us enroll more typical kids helps not only the typical kids, but the special needs kids we can take off our wait list and enroll in a classroom because of the balanced ratios created when typical kids enroll.
Could you help us spread the word?
Casey, Tom, and Tom’s wife, Lindsay today