School Program for Children with Autism Starts New Year With Capacity Enrollment and a New Multi-Sensory' Room

September 16, 2004
$25,000 Verizon Foundation Grant Enables School to Offer New Feature to Further Promote Learning

BALTIMORE - With a growing demand for special education services for children with autism, Kennedy Krieger Institute's LEAP Program (Lifeskills and Education for Students With Autism and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders) has begun the new school year with a waiting list and capacity enrollment of 55 students. Kennedy Krieger's LEAP Program is one of the few in Maryland dedicated solely to educating this specific population.

New this year will be a "multi-sensory room" made possible with a $25,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications. This room uses lights, sounds, aromas and textures to promote relaxation, enjoyment, exploration and learning for autistic students. Parents and students will explore the room during its grand opening on Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m. during "back-to-school" night. This is a time when parents also get to meet their children's teachers and visit classrooms.

"We constantly strive to incorporate and balance all of the professional disciplines and their approaches while educating children with autism," says LEAP Director Linda Brandenburg. "Thanks to Verizon, we believe the experiences the multi-sensory room will provide our students ultimately will improve their ability to learn and make them more productive in the school environment."

In its seventh year, LEAP offers a 12-month curriculum where students with autism and other pervasive developmental disabilities learn communication, daily living and functional/vocational skills that promote self-sufficiency. Students, who are transported by bus from surrounding school systems, are taught using specialized educational interventions including applied behavior analysis, picture exchange communication systems, TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children) and other established approaches in highly structured, one-to-one and group settings.

The program at Kennedy Krieger is unique in Maryland, not only for its focus on students with autism, but also for its interdisciplinary approach to instruction and treatment. The interdisciplinary team includes professionals in: special education, vocational education, art and music therapy, psychology, psychiatry, social work, speech/language pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing and behavioral resource. "Verizon believes in investing in our communities through strategic partnerships with organizations that support education and literary, technology education, and health and human services," said William R. Roberts, president of Verizon Maryland. "This grant reflects Verizon's long-standing commitment to our youth and the communities where our employees live and work."

About Kennedy Krieger Institute:

Internationally recognized for improving the lives of children and adolescents with disorders and injuries of the brain and spinal cord, Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore serves more than 11,000 children each year through inpatient and day treatment programs, outpatient clinics, home and community services and school-based programs. Kennedy Krieger provides a wide range of services for children with developmental concerns mild to severe, and is home to a team of investigators who are contributing to the understanding of how disorders develop and pioneering new interventions and earlier diagnosis.

About the Verizon Foundation:

The Verizon Foundation in 2003 awarded more than 21,000 grants totaling about $70 million to charitable and nonprofit agencies that focus on improving basic and computer literacy, enriching communities through technology, and creating a skilled work force. The foundation uses its resources in the United States and abroad to develop partnerships in technology and connect them with organizations serving the needs of diverse communities, people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, and the economically and socially disadvantaged.

The foundation also supports Verizon Volunteers, an incentive program that last year encouraged Verizon employees to volunteer 595,000 hours in their communities and provided $34.6 million in combined contributions to charitable and nonprofit organizations. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.

Allison Nadelhaft, (443) 923-7330
Bryan Stark, (443) 923-7334