“Attending Siskin Children’s Institute has meant a lot to Alexandra. She has improved dramatically in her skills in a very short time due to the most dedicated teachers I have ever encountered. Alexandra speaks non-stop of things she does in her classroom.” --Vardan Ter-Antonyan, Alexandra’s dad
The teaching staff in Classroom 3 listened with amazement and delight as Alexandra, 3, broke into song. “She was working at the computer with Ms. Tina, a teaching partner in our classroom, and they were listening to a fun children’s song,” said Melisa Foster, Alexandra’s teacher. “We’d never heard Alexandra verbalize and had been encouraging her to use expressive language. All of a sudden, she was singing along and getting the words right.”
Most children’s use of language begins with babbling and repetitive syllables by six months, steadily progressing to simple sentences by age 2. For Alexandra, who has developmental disabilities, these milestones are more difficult to achieve. That’s where Siskin Children’s Institute has been able to help.
Alexandra has attended the Institute’s Early Learning Center five days a week since 2009. Institute classrooms are inclusive educational environments where children with disabilities and those who are typically developing learn and grow side-by-side.
“Attending Siskin Children’s Institute has meant a lot to Alexandra. She has improved dramatically in her skills in a very short time due to the most dedicated teachers I have ever encountered. Alexandra speaks non-stop of things she does in her classroom,” said Vardan Ter-Antonyan, Alexandra’s dad.
Now that Alexandra’s use of words has taken off and her vocabulary is increasing, the adults in her life are building on that foundation. “During daily routines, we incorporate activities that will help Alexandra reach other developmental goals like speaking clearly, using complete sentences, learning to follow simple instructions, writing her name, cutting and drawing,” Melisa said. The classroom staff use innovative methods to practice these skills. “In December, the children had a gift wrapping station,” said Melisa. “That one activity gave Alexandra the opportunity to draw with crayons and markers—which is one of her favorite things to do—and practice skills like cutting with scissors, using tape and writing her name. She loved it!”
An only child, Alexandra is quick to engage the adults she encounters, launching into a rousing description of whatever she is doing. “We’re also encouraging Alexandra to interact with children her own age, her peers,” Courtney, a teaching partner in Classroom 3, said. “A few days ago, a group of us were in the floor playing with a puzzle about numbers. Alexandra was crowded around with her friends, several of them typically developing children, and all the kids began saying the numbers out loud, starting with number one. As the other children trailed off in saying the numbers, Alexandra kept right on going. As the children looked to me to help with the next number, I told them, ‘Don’t ask me. Ask Alexandra.’ She helped them count all the way to 15!”
The future looks bright for this little girl with the bubbly personality, the bright smile and the infectious laugh. She is smart, determined, engaged and engaging. To know Alexandra is to be her friend.