Delia, a student of The Special Learning Center, dances on stage at Moments of Magic, an annual fundraiser for the Special Learning Center Foundation that showcases the magic the Special Learning Center experiences every day.
Article by Debbie Hamler
Special Learning Center Executive Director
In the mid-1950s, two schools were established in Jefferson City by parents to meet the needs of children with special needs. Goshorn Handicap Center provided services to children with cerebral palsy and other physical difficulties, and Peter Pan School offered services for children with mental disabilities. In 1985, these entities merged to create the Special Learning Center (SLC) which was a more efficient way to serve children with special needs. Initially the Center served 25 children; but by 1990, the Center had moved to its current location and expanded services to more than 70 families. A building expansion in 2001 enabled the Special Learning Center to further expand its services to include the Crayon Kids program, which offers quality childcare for children with and without special needs. Today, SLC provides the following programs for over 600 children each year in 19 school districts and 11 counties throughout central Missouri:
• Center-based program: Our trademark program for young children with special needs offers comprehensive classroom and occupational, physical, and speech-language therapy services.
• Outreach therapy program: Comprehensive occupational, physical, and speech-language therapy services offered at the center, in schools, and in homes throughout central Missouri.
• Through Missouri First Steps, SLC is contracted to provide early intervention services to children birth through age 3.
• Crayon Kids: Our preschool/child care program for children with and without disabilities.
• Capable Kids and Families: Our family support program that provides home visits, equipment and outreach activities to qualifying families.
• Intensive Therapy Program: Our innovative therapy program that combines the use of unique therapy approaches and specialized equipment for participating children.
• Other services: Our staff is qualified to conduct pediatric evaluations and developmental screenings.
Over the past 10 years, our signature event, Moments of Magic, has raised close to $400,000 for the Special Learning Center Foundation. This event raises public awareness and provides funding for our Foundation. However, the most unique and special part of this event is the performance by the children who have been part of the magic of SLC. This year’s event included a special performance by a local dance group for children with special needs. It was their first opportunity to dance on stage and brought tears to the eyes of our audience! Moments of Magic shows our community the “magic” that happens at the SLC every day of the year. The reception and performance is a night of heart-filled entertainment while at the same time providing funding to help many central Missouri children with special needs.
United Way of Central Missouri is a critical partner to the Special Learning Center. The connections and partnerships made through the United Way continue to help the SLC carryout our mission to help every child attain his or her maximum potential. The funding provided by United Way helps fill the gap between our cost of doing business and our revenues. The funding is critical to the ongoing operation of the Special Learning Center, but it’s much more than just the funding. The United Way of Central Missouri and their 28 partner agencies are like a family. We work together to combine resources and coordinate services to provide a holistic approach to serve the families of this area with compassion and care—and to do so efficiently to maximize the support of the community. Partner agency directors are able to share information and resources, develop friendships, and also create business relationships. We are grateful for our community and the support we receive for our agency and the children and families we serve. Through support from the United Way and our community, the SLC is better able to serve children with special needs and ensure they are getting the care they need and the support they deserve.