16 years ago Elizabeth Dulin became one of the co-founders of the Lionheart School. A community that today has many students that they are caring for in a very high level. The school has now become a National model in many ways for special needs children.
The school started with a group of like minded and like hearted families who had a need for young children who were entering into a school age arena, yet there wasn't a school that they thought would be appropriate for their children. These families got together and invited some professionals to join them to start a school. They selected a developmental model and they brought it into a school program.
They started in a tiny cottage with 6 children. The families and the staff never lost focus on their mission as the school grew.
The mission of what the children need still drives everything they do.
They always wanted to keep it feeling like home full of love and respect for every child. Everyone who works with a child knows the child well.
The intent was to create a program that could be replicated other places. That is now being done across the Nation and across the World. They follow a developmental model that the late Stanley Greenspan and Dr. Serena Wieder developed to work with these kids. It was unique to use this model in a school.
They aim to RELATE and COMMUNICATE with these children
The ability to relate and communicate is a powerful tool in a normal world but the challenge of relating and communicating with people who have special needs in a family setting every day brings such a stress level to so many parents. That is central to what they are trying to do in a school setting with these children.
They ask teachers check their egos at the door. The child that walks in is someone worthy of love and respect. These kids need sensitivity to their individual differences. They have a heavy emphasis on relationships with these children. That helps teachers understand these children better which in turn helps with the relating and the communicating.
They have a program called Lionheart for Life.
When you start with kids so young and they grow with you until they are 18 they don't want to leave Lionheart and what they have learned and developed there.
These young adults may or may not go on to college. You can measure success a lot of different ways and college isn't the only way to measure success. The Lionheart for life program evolved out of their philosophy where they take what the kids are interested in and really good at and they use it for different purposes. They have experiential learning where the kids get out into the community and work in various settings that appeal to them as volunteers.
From there they graduate into a program called Lionheart Works where they go out and get a job. Which has been a significant program for these young adults.
Elizabeth encourages churches to make outreach to special needs families and to make them a part of their outreach and community. If a family can find a church home that's supportive of them as a family, it's extraordinary. Finding a community of support is so important.