Keystone Launches Two New Schools

Since its opening in 2013, Keystone Child Development Center has grown rapidly. The school was founded based on the inclusion model that provides opportunities for students with disabilities to learn alongside their non-disabled peers. The center’s leaders have spent the past four years developing and perfecting an educational approach that is thoughtful and balanced. They have successfully prepared hundreds of preschool children for success in primary school and beyond.

“Our goal was to produce an educational program that is developmentally appropriate for all young children and based on the best practices in the education field,” Katie Falwell, CEO and founder, said. “We are inspired by a variety of philosophies and approaches, which we have blended together into a program that reflects our commitment to helping children lay the best possible social, emotional, physical and cognitive foundations.”

As a result of rapid growth and what has been learned from the success of Keystone Child Development Center, Dr. Falwell is retiring KCDC and launching two new schools. Collage Day School and Mosaic Day School will open with the 2017-18 school year.

Collage Day School opens in Palm Valley with the first day of school on Aug. 10.

Collage Day School

Collage Day School, an academically challenging, independent day school that will open in Palm Valley this coming August, is currently accepting applications for students from 3 months old through 5th grade. The school focuses on providing a rich, integrative curriculum that encourages creative thinking and that is personalized for each student.

Students will start classes on Thursday, Aug. 10, and the school will follow the St. Johns County Public School Calendar. Collage Day School is located at 171 Canal Boulevard, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082. The 8-acre campus is nestled between the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean in the heart of the Ponte Vedra Beach area of St. Johns County, which offers students hands-on experiences with nature and outdoor learning and additional layers of education, history and ecology.

The faculty of the School is made up of a combination of certified lead teachers and assistant teachers. Each teacher is tasked with bringing subject matter to each student in a way that is engaging and appropriate for the developmental stage of the student, rather than following a scripted lesson plan developed by someone else.

Our approach is thoughtful and balanced. It is also developmentally appropriate and based on the best practices in the education field. We are inspired by a variety of philosophies and approaches, which we blend together into a program that reflects our commitment to helping children lay the best possible social, emotional, physical and cognitive foundations.

Collage staff is challenged with uncovering the unique learning profile of each individual student and matching that knowledge with instruction to help their students develop the tools to be problem solvers, innovators, creators and change makers.

The grounds around Collage Day School will be put to good use as a “living classroom” where children can develop cognitive, social and emotional skills. The school is dedicated to promoting students’ health. Students do not spend their day sitting in front of computers under artificial lights, but have the opportunities to move and use their bodies in healthy ways and to spend time outdoors with a myriad of natural features such as woods and pathways, garden, play equipment and an inner courtyard that provides a common area for the Collage family to gather and socialize.

Collage is completing the process for full membership and accreditation by the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS), Florida Kindergarten Council (FKC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The school’s VPK program is endorsed by the Florida Department of Children & Families.

How important is preschool?

As reported in Parents.com, “There’s increasing evidence that children gain a lot from going to preschool,” says Parents advisor Kathleen McCartney, PhD, dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “At preschool, they become exposed to numbers, letters, and shapes. And, more important, they learn how to socialize — get along with other children, share, contribute to circle time.”

Mosaic Day School

 Mosaic Day School offers education for children with special needs, ages 1-7. Mosaic has classes designated for early intervention for students who are not appropriate for Collage Day School. Students attending Mosaic will receive services from Keystone Behavioral Pediatrics, as needed, and attend either a half-day program (morning or afternoon) or a school day program (8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.). Before- and after-care will also be available. Mosaic also offers a day treatment program for older students that are not able to successfully participate in a classroom setting.

The school primarily serves children with behavioral/developmental issues who have experienced failure in the continuum of available public or private special education environments and require a high degree of individualized attention and intervention. The program includes intensive one-to-one sessions and small group sessions, when appropriate, which teach students to relate to their peers and participate cooperatively in group activities. The goal is for each student to reintegrate or matriculate to a less restrictive academic setting with traditional classrooms.

Mosaic Day School is located at 6867 Southpoint Rd. N, Jacksonville, FL 32216.

To learn more about Collage Day School, visit @Collage Day School on Facebook and contact Rebecca Bowersox, director of admissions, rbowersox@keystonebehavioral.com, 904.900.1439.

To learn more about Mosaic Day School, contact info@keystonebehavioral.com, 904.619.6071.

Special education teacher starts each day with a compliment!

Special Books by Special Kids visit mayor's office
Mainspring Academy teacher Chris Ulmer’s kids visited the Mayor’s Office recently to talk with the Mayor’s Disability Council.

It all started with eight kids who have special needs and their teacher of three years, Chris Ulmer, at Mainspring Academy, a private, kindergarten through grade 12, special education school serving the Jacksonville area. The kids let Chris know that they often feel like outcasts, misunderstood and made fun of or ignored.

“Curious glances are directed at these children during community outings,” Chris said. “Their peers do not understand attempts at communication. Many adults avoid interaction because they fear they will offend somebody and don’t know the ‘appropriate’ way to interact with a special needs child.”

So, Chris decided to start every day by showering each student with 10 minutes of genuine compliments. Instead of focusing on what things they are not able to do or need to do better, he reminds them of all the things that make them each uniquely special.

“I noticed the kids were always more motivated, happier, and better-behaved on [the days that began with affirmations]. So we started doing it every day,” he told ABC News in a story (http://abcn.ws/1PMQMS3) that aired on Nov. 17.

Chris has been collaborating with his students and their parents about how they can work to erase social stigma in the larger community by showing the true nature of these eight students. The result is the Special Books for Special Kids project run by Chris with the help of others. The project includes editing videos, taking photos, collecting stories and responding to messages from people who visit the projects website or Facebook page.

“I also love to share stories from children with special needs around the world,” Chris said. “I believe if enough people follow our journey it will erase stigmas and show the beautiful nature of children with special needs.”

His wish is quickly coming true, as the story of these kids has gone “viral” in the past couple of weeks, due in large part to the ABC story which was quickly picked up by other news sources. He is receiving Facebook messages from parents and others around the world, with more than 136,000 “likes” for the Special Books by Special Kids Facebook page.

On the project’s website, Chris encourages parents and caregivers to share their stories of children with special needs by submitting a photo and story to SBSKsubmission@gmail.com. Viewers of the website can read interviews and see photos of his children. Ultimately, Chris hopes to have a book published about his students and their stories.

Chris has taught for the past three years at Mainspring Academy, which was founded in 2010 as Keystone Academy, part of Keystone Behavioral Pediatrics. It became its own nonprofit school in summer 2015. Mainspring Academy was founded on the principles of special education, applied behavior analysis and psychology.

Mainspring Academy, a special needs private school in Jacksonville, Florida, was created with the entire child in mind. The school staff looks in detail at each area of development to ensure that academic, social skills, vocational and behavioral content are being presented in the most effective manner. To support the school’s curricula, Keystone Behavioral Pediatrics professionals push in to the classroom as needed and provide mental, behavioral and rehabilitative medicine services outside of regular classes, as Mainspring’s largest service provider.

Keystone Behavioral Pediatrics was formed in 2008 by Katherine Falwell, Ph.D., BCBA-D. Keystone offers a comprehensive, integrated team of professionals including a pediatrician, licensed child psychologists, licensed mental health counselor, board certified behavior analysts, master’s level clinicians and occupational therapists, who provide in-patient and out-patient care to assist families and primary care physicians. They work collaboratively in the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of a broad range of developmental, behavioral, learning and genetic disorders in children and adolescents (birth to 22 years of age). Keystone focuses on the whole child – physically, mentally, socially, behaviorally and developmentally – to offer parents/caregivers one source to help meet all of their child’s needs.