- GOAL: Increase the capacity of Kennedy Krieger Institute’s LEAP (Lifeskills and Education for Students with Autism and other Pervasive Behavioral Challenges) Program to serve more students—and to serve them more effectively. This requires $15 million in capital funds.
- Kennedy Krieger requests $2.5 million in capital funds for each of the next two fiscal years (2023 and 2024) from the state of Maryland.
- Over the next two years, Kennedy Krieger will contribute $10 million in capital funds to this initiative.
Help Us Help Maryland’s Students
LEAP is a nonpublic, year-round special education day program. Accredited by the Maryland State Department of Education, LEAP serves 53 students, 5 to 21 years old, with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and/or severe cognitive and behavioral challenges. There is a need, however, for us to serve up to 65 students.
Additionally, the two buildings that the LEAP program occupies, at Kennedy Krieger’s Greenspring Campus, were originally designed as hospital and sports rehabilitation spaces. More than two decades ago, Kennedy Krieger renovated and adapted these spaces to be used as 10 classrooms, plus offices and therapy and recreation spaces. But these spaces are no longer ideal to best serve LEAP’s students, who have very complex and significant needs.
We need a structural revitalization of our space, through renovations and/or new construction. Funding from the state of Maryland will allow us to evaluate, design and build on the current structure of our school, so we may increase the number of students we serve at LEAP, and to design classrooms that will best support our students and keep them and our staff members safe.
A Unique Educational Program
LEAP is one of Kennedy Krieger Institute’s four special education schools. Each student attending a Kennedy Krieger school has a designated educational disability and is referred to Kennedy Krieger School Programs by their local school system. Kennedy Krieger School Programs serve students from across Maryland, as well as from Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Students with autism and severe cognitive and behavioral challenges, like those served at LEAP, require a highly structured environment with designated areas for individual and therapeutic instruction as well as sensory and behavioral breaks. Providing individual and therapeutic instruction to a large number of students with complex needs requires a high staff-to-student ratio. While a typical LEAP classroom serves only five to seven students, there is usually an equal or greater number of staff members (teachers, classroom assistants, behavioral specialists, speech and occupational therapists, etc.) in the classroom with the students.
Currently, several of our classroom spaces are too small and/or are irregularly shaped. And three LEAP classrooms are physically located in a separate building on campus. This physical separation results in staff members and students being too spread out. These limitations in our current physical space present challenges in effectively implementing our best instructional and behavioral practices and have prevented us from serving more students.
Many of our students are referred to us because of their challenging behaviors, including aggression and self-injury. Providing separate spaces within, or close to, their classrooms to safely manage these behaviors without completely removing them from programming is essential.
In fact, as recently as 20 years ago, before LEAP was established, Maryland’s students with complex disabilities were often separated from their families and sent out of state to residential facilities, at great expense to Maryland, and distress to their families. LEAP was established to allow these students to continue living with their families while attending school.
LEAP’s location at the Institute’s Greenspring Campus, alongside Kennedy Krieger High School, is extremely beneficial. We have several shared spaces, including the gymnasium, indoor pool, outdoor sports field and large conference rooms. Additionally, our co-location allows us to share staff members and school vans. But the LEAP building and annex spaces are not ideal in size or shape to best serve our students who have very complex and significant needs. We desperately need a structural revitalization of our facilities. We would like to renovate existing and create new spaces that we would design specifically to serve our unique population of students.
We respectfully ask for the state of Maryland’s contribution of capital funds to structurally revitalize the space for our LEAP Program.