The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind Serves as an Excellent Center for Inclusive Early Education
Have you ever imagined how your life would be without sight? Many children and adults in our community are blind or visually impaired. Some of them gradually lost their sight and they must adapt their everyday lives without seeing.
Fortunately, we have a great organization that supports them. The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind is addressing the pressing need to understand and improve skills of early learners by offering Florida’s only fully inclusive early education program for the visually impaired with their sighted peers. Miami Lighthouse has long been at the forefront of early education for visually impaired children. It’s Blind Babies Early Intervention Program was established in 2003 in collaboration with the Florida Division of Blind Services and today serves 125 families. The early learners in these programs are primarily an at-risk population from economically disadvantaged homes, as the clients of Miami Lighthouse have been identified by the U.S. Census as coming from an area where 62% or more of the children live at or below 150% of the poverty threshold.
As the Miami Lighthouse continues expanding on the blind babies’ initiative, the Miami Lighthouse Academy LLC is an Accredited Professional Preschool Learning Environment, an international early learning program accreditation that recognizes early learning centers for operating high-quality programs. This includes School Readiness and VPK programs offering an inclusive classroom early learning environment for visually impaired students and their sighted peers. In an article published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, the Academy was recognized as a programmatic model that can be emulated across the nation as a cost-effective method for increasing opportunities for visually impaired babies.
This year, Miami Lighthouse Academy’s enrollment has quadrupled from 15 students when the program was piloted four years ago to 70 students. To accommodate the unprecedented growth and need for children’s services, Miami Lighthouse just completed a new classroom expansion on its Mary M. and Sash A. Spencer campus. Miami Lighthouse collaborates with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the Florida Division of Blind Services and The Early Learning Coalition to address the growing need of early intervention and early learning pre-school, pre-kindergarten and early elementary school through second grade with on-site daily classes. The instructional staff includes 12 Florida certified classroom teachers including 4 Florida certified teachers of the visually impaired.
Miami Lighthouse also engages professionals from related fields, including speech therapists, physical and occupational therapists, and early intervention children’s specialists. Registration is available for both visually impaired and sighted pre-school students starting at age one, and for students with vision impairments for kindergarten, first grade and second grade.
Miami Lighthouse Academy was able to celebrate this year’s new classroom expansion milestone thanks to their generous family of donors. Help ensure the sustainability of their internationally recognized Miami Lighthouse Academy by making a donation today. Your investment will be doubled thanks to a generous donor’s one-for-one matching challenge.
We want to finalize this article with a beautiful quote from their CEO Mrs. Virginia Jacko who is blind herself, “Early learning in an inclusive, diverse classroom helps students focus on each other’s ability rather than focusing on a classmates disability” said Virginia A. Jacko, President and CEO of Miami Lighthouse Academy LLC.