Each week in partnership with the Merced County Office of Education we highlight North Valley leaders and programs specializing in early childhood education. 

The Merced County Office of Education’s Special Education department serves moderate to severe cases from birth to 22-years-old. Their preschool special education program focuses on not just learning but all stages of early childhood development to celebrate each child’s disabilities and abilities.

This is Josh.

He had a lot to say while building mountains of clay snowmen. You’d never guess just over a year ago the preschooler couldn’t speak. After working with Miss Eason-Brooks in her special education preschool class he’s now a social butterfly.

“I love this age. You give them really quality intervention and the sky is the limit. You’re impacting not just the quality of their life but the quality of their family’s life as well,” said Special Education Preschool Teacher Kim Eason-Brooks. 

Josh is like many in this class learning day-to-day practical interaction and communication skills.

“Here our little friend is going to be looking into his book. These are all things he’s learned to identify and he’s going to go through and select the activity he wants to choose,” said Eason-Brooks.

 “We teach everything from speech and language skills, to communication skills, and to how to self monitor. We teach them daily living skills. It could be toileting, it could be eating skills or it could be looking someone in the eye,” said MCOE’s Special Education Department Director Cindy Heaton.

Preschool coordinator Kara Solorio said early childhood intervention and specialized curriculum is key for all children.

“For a lot of our kids it’s not necessarily eliminating a disability, it’s teaching them strategy or techniques on how to live with that disability. Within that curriculum we focus on evidence based practices such as discrete trial classroom, pivotal response training, and picture icon exchange for communication. There’s a variety of evidence based practices that we impalement inside of the classroom,” said Solorio.