The CDC in Coatesville
As Michele had posted earlier, we are visiting area APSs. For me, the reason is two-fold. First, of course, if I’m going to be a Special Ed Advocate, I need to be familiar with these facilities. But more importantly, I am the mom to a brand new 5-year-old (turned 5 end of August!) and so I am visiting them in an effort to make the best possible decisions for him.
**Please keep in mind, that these opinions are my own, and as a mom. My son’s diagnosis, skills, abilities, and personality are certainly unique to him. While it’s always good to gather different opinions, you owe it to your child to visit the facility yourself and make your own call.
The CDC is on a big campus in Coatesville. It’s right off of Business 30, and in the same area as Coatesville High School, Brandywine CAT, Head Start, and a few other agencies/schools. CDC stands for Child & Career Development Center, and to be honest, I’ve never understood why it’s not called CCDC. But it’s not. Everyone calls is the CDC. It’s not an APS per se. It’s actually jointly owned by all 12 school districts in Chester County, and the IU operates the facility on behalf of all the districts. But for the purposes of this blog, it certainly falls under the category of APS as it is a placement option for our kids.
What appealed to me: They work really hard to make it like a regular school. They have regular programs and a December holiday pageant, a prom, and other activities that a typical school has. They have a separate art room, music room, indoor pool, pet therapy, library time which may or may not include computer time in a computer media room, a gymnasium, a fairly well-equipped therapy room, and two cafeterias. Younger children eat lunch in their classrooms. Also, because they are not really a private school, but run by the districts, they have to, and do, offer every service or make every service available that is on your child’s IEP. Private schools are not required to provide more obscure services (like vision) but more on that in my next APS review. I was very impressed with the two teachers and many assistants/aides that I met. I visited two classrooms–given my son’s age and abilities, it was determined that he would probably be in one of those two. I also liked that it is a reasonable distance from our home. If I’m going to subject my son to a significant amount of travel each day, it’s got to be worth it.
What did not appeal to me: It’s huge. Over 500 students from age 5 to 21. Yes, they keep older students on upper floors and they don’t mingle with the younger children. But on one day that I visited (I visited twice) the noise, commotion and activity were overwhelming to me. And I’m neurotypical (I think, lol.) My husband said to me “K just looks so small compared to all the other students” and he was right. He did look small. They do not offer genuine ABA programs, though they do have “ABA model” programs. It also didn’t feel shiny, new and up to date. Mind you, the place was clean, well kept. It just felt like an older building, not new and sophisticated. I hope that makes sense. It also made me very uncomfortable that all ages and abilities are under one roof. That means, my 5-year-old son, who really cannon defend himself in any capacity, is in the same building as an 18-year-old student that has social & emotional disturbances and so on. I’m very sorry if that hurts you if you are a parent to a child with those issues, but that’s how I feel–I’m just being honest. I think we can educate and advocate for all students; that doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be in the same building.
It’s very difficult to do a write up on just one facility when in my head I certainly am comparing it to other facilities I’ve visited. In the special needs world, you hear lots of chatter from other parents. I know parents that have children that went to the CDC for their entire schooling and just love the place. I’ve heard of others that have hated it and with good reason. Go visit it yourself and see. Keep in mind, that you need to make sure that if you do dislike the CDC–ask yourself if it’s the CDC or if it’s your district that is really the issue. For more information on the CDC or to arrange a visit, please visit CCIU.org or contact the Special Ed director of your district.