The Kaplan Foundation Story
My staff were young & inexperienced but open & passionate. For the first 3 months I worked all shifts (7 to 3, 3 to 11 & 11 to 7) ensuring the safety of my students & the positive development of my staff.
Toilet training, sleeping through the night, brushing teeth, bathing, dressing, using utensils to eat, exercising, community access, communication & music were addressed during the first 3 to 6 months.
One year later we purchased a 5 acre site with a large ranch-style home, barn, stables & a swimming pool in Orangevale ,California & moved back to Sacramento to be closer to the University, a larger employee base & to expand the program. The new site could support 8 students and we went to work immediately converting the barn & staples to fully operational classrooms & added day students from the local public school systems.
We hired additional team members (Teachers, Speech Therapist, & Art Therapist, Swim Instructor, office support & an amazing nutritionist / Bio Medical Practitioner). A step by step training program was developed to prepare the team to work collaboratively together. The school grew to 4 homes & a main school site.
Children were taught to complete a wide variety of self-help & hygiene tasks, meal preparation, independent living tasks, such as laundry, sweeping making their beds, making a salad, smoothies, sandwich, loading a dishwasher, etc. They were also taken into the community & taught how to access parks, museums, movies, restaurants, fairs, sport events, bowling alleys & much more on a regular basis. Their school day consisted of exercising (skating, running, swimming, basketball & trampoline) as well as learning social skills, communication skills and academic skills.
The families were required to visit & learn how to work with their son or daughter to prepare them for the times their children came for home visits. In the early years the regional center allowed me to send staff home with families to help generalize skills into their own homes. Families were required to call weekly, send some sort of written communication to their son or daughter in the mail and have their son or daughter home for special holidays (Xmas, Thanksgiving etc.)
Each year the Kaplan Foundation hosted all the families from all over the state & out of state for a family picnic right after participating in Special Olympic Games at Sacramento State University.
I directed the Kaplan Foundation for 20 years.
So many lessons, I learned in hiring the right team, supporting families, training & supporting the team & families, developing relationships with districts, state agencies, universities & similar schools, integrating into communities, keeping on top of research & strategies & finding balance between student needs, parent expectations and available resources.