NEW BEDFORD — Out with the old and in with the new: Kennedy-Donovan Center unveiled its newly renovated Early Intervention Center at its open house on Tuesday.
With $150,000 in donations, the KDC was able to update its EIC with a fully accessible children’s bathroom, updated assessment classroom and indoor playground, new flooring and a fresh coat of interior paint to create a more inviting space for children and families.
The EIC serves about 500 children in the New Bedford area facing developmental delays, disabilities and other challenges. With the renovations, children from birth to 36 months will be able to grow and improve their sensory-motor skills with new learning areas.
The updated indoor playground which once held a giant ball-pit and slide has been converted into a creative space with an indoor jungle gym, interactive music boards and wall-mounted puzzles. A partial wall with a locking gate was installed to create a hallway so adults and staff can walk by without disturbing children at play. Photos of current and previous children and families are on display.
A new atmosphere
“We wanted to give it that touch, not seem institutional,” Assistant Director Tammy Silva said.
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The classroom next door has something for everyone, with a new climbing structure built by Silva and Program Director Laura Farley. The carpeted structure, built out of wood, provides children the opportunity to explore stairs and a slide, something to which not many children may have been exposed. A swing hangs down from the ceiling over the area for “circle time” for stories and music. More sensory areas, such as a jelly-filled hopscotch game and toys help children work on coordination and build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways. For children who want more fun time, there is a thematic play area with a tiny kitchen and table.
Gianna Pina, 5, spent the majority of her toddler years at KDC. Her mother, Heather, said the center was “life-changing” as her daughter transformed over the years. Gianna was brought to the center at just three weeks old. She was sick from birth, and after a consultation at a hospital, it was decided that early intervention was necessary. Gianna required a feeding tube because she was unable to swallow liquids or solids. She also required occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech pathology and other medical treatments. With the help of the EIC, Gianna has progressed to the point where the feeding tube is on the way out.
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“What they taught me really works,” Heather Pina said of the instruction given at home. “This really set her up for the classroom experience.”
Setting kids up for the classroom experience
Although she is excited about the new changes to the center, Gianna graduated to two years of preschool and will be entering kindergarten in the fall in New Bedford Public Schools.
Keegan Quiros, nearly 3 years old, arrived at the EIC when he turned 2 years old. His mother, Kelly Periera, said her son has delayed speech issues. When he first joined the center, he participated in online interactions due to the pandemic. At the open house, Keegan was able to climb around on the playground and classroom and experience it for the first time. He didn’t say much, but from the enormous smile on his face while running around, it seems like he’ll fit right in.
“I can’t wait for groups, since there’s no daycare right now,” Pina said.
Pina hopes interactions with other children will help expand his vocabulary.
Family rooms for one-on-one meetings
Family rooms have also been updated for one-on-one meetings. Silva said she wanted to provide a “safe environment for assessments.” One of the rooms features a one-way window that looks into the classroom so parents can watch their children interact while in a meeting with staff. Staff offices have also been updated with new furnishings and a fresh coat of paint representing KDC colors of blue and white.
“Despite the challenges of the past year, KDC has some incredible accomplishments to celebrate, this renovation project being one of them. We’re grateful for our committed Early Intervention team who successfully pivoted to continue providing services via telehealth, and now, we are so glad to welcome our families back to in-person services in this inviting updated space,” KDC’s Acting Chief Executive Officer Glen Mattera wrote in a statement in a press release.
The Kennedy-Donovan Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit human service agency providing a wide range of direct and supportive services to those facing developmental delays, disabilities and other challenges throughout Central and Southeastern Massachusetts. KDC’s 325 employees currently serve 7,500 children, adults and families living in 150 communities. Its Early Intervention Center is located at 389 County St.
Standard-Times staff writer Kerri Tallman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @ktallman_SCT for links to recent articles.
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