Children of all abilities from age 6 weeks up to fifth grade can enroll for three months of fun learning at Brainerd United Methodist Church Preschool and Parent's Day Out Summer Camp. Year-round the school works with many students with special needs.
About 30 to 35 percent have a diagnosed special need.
"In the summer, when we take school-aged students our special needs numbers are higher," said Brainerd UMC Preschool and Parent's Day Out Director Emily Nasca. "Anything outside of the norm is considered a special need. I don't think that 'normal' is a reality anymore. Teaching to what they need to work on is better. Cloning by age in education is the old way of thinking."
Launching May 21, Brainerd UMC will begin 10-hour weekdays of summer camp from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The program costs $25 per day and runs through Aug. 13.
The Chattanooga Zoo, Read 20, The Tennessee Aquarium, the Creative Discovery Museum, Kids on the Block, a dancing teacher, a cook and a karate demonstrator will all make appearances throughout the summer to teach children a variety of lessons.
In August, the Brainerd UMC Preschool and Parent's Day Out will begin enrollment for fall classes, held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"In August we will start a home-school co-op for special needs kids that want an alternative to Hamilton County schools," said Nasca. "Through the co-op we will let the parents teach math and literacy at home. They will bring students here for the extras. We will teach Bible, geography, art, music and science."
She said on Mondays and Wednesdays kindergartners, first- and second-graders will attend the co-op classes. On Thursdays third-, fourth- and fifth-graders will attend. So far, 12 special needs students ages 6 to 12 have signed up for the home-school co-op.
"Because we have a really solid curriculum, we are able to work with kids at any level," said Nasca. "Because we do child assessments twice a year we know where our kids are at developmentally and we are able to help them with that as well."
She said all children have special needs in certain areas. She said one of her own children is gifted and needs more to keep him busy, which she said is considered a special need too. Her two daughters have been undergoing speech therapy, which is their educational special need, said Nasca.
"I think a lot of times if a child has autism or another special need, that people working with them may think they can't advance to typical developing kids' goals," said Nasca. "But they can achieve too."
Inside the Brainerd UMC classrooms students can enter the drama room, art studio, library or music room. Playgrounds are also available for outdoor recreation. Students like to play instruments, make mosaics and pottery while at the school, said Nasca.