YOUNGSTOWN Development center has eye on expansion

The Potential Development Center will soon be encouraging communication and other skills with a wider age range of pupils.
YOUNGSTOWN -- It took 7-year-old Daniel Yakubov about a week to ask Marilyn Fielding for popcorn. Before that, the child with autism didn't use words to communicate.
Daniel's teacher repeatedly used a picture of the treat to encourage dialogue.
Soon, the Potential Development Center will be encouraging communication and other skills with a wider age range of pupils.
More children: Beginning in September, the center, on Youngstown's South Side, will take children up to third grade. Those with autism and other developmental delays will be able to use its speech, occupational, physical therapy and other services, according to Paul Garchar, director.
The United Way Agency center now serves youngsters age 21/2 to 7.
Reaching out: Last year, the center began a new program called PD's Place to expand services to Trumbull County residents. The Howland-based program serves up to 10 special needs children.
Potential Development combines highly structured individual instruction with leisure and group activities to make transitions to a regular school setting easier. The 11-month program stresses consistent classroom routines and schedules. Individual programs are largely geared toward a child's particular interest, Garchar said.
Communication: The 40 children use many pictures and objects to help them make smoother transitions between activities, and most pupils have an Individual Curriculum Program. ICPs are contracts between the family and school stating the child's needs and goals and how to achieve them. They give priority to families' wishes.
Teachers keep a journal of each child's progress. They also watch how the kids play and incorporate much of this information into the ICPs.
"We teach through play, since [many] children learn best this way," said Carol Shields, program coordinator. "It tells us a lot about where the child is developmentally."

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