The University of Texas at Austin Child Development Centers provides an educational program designed to meet the needs of the whole child. This program is based on the knowledge that young children are active learners, involved in a process that uses all their senses as they talk, work, and play with people and materials. Professionally trained teachers and caregivers plan activities and arrange stimulating learning environments appropriate for the different developmental stages of a child’s life.
The infant and toddler programs provide a warm, nurturing atmosphere in which caregivers play and talk with children as they care for their needs. These teachers care for children in a manner that assists them in developing trust in their surroundings and in their caregivers. Lesson plans for these age groups include a lot of sensory activities and outdoor play. Infants have stable, consistent routines based on their own schedules for eating, resting, and playing. Through encouragement and activities centered on weekly themes, toddlers develop independence while maintaining a sense of security.
Preschool children’s daily activities center on units of study that are interesting and meaningful to young children, and their balanced schedules provide experiences in both group and individual settings. Stories, music, language experiences, projects, and discussion of unit studies take place in groups. Individually, children choose learning center activities in which they work and play in pairs, in small groups, or alone.
Evaluating and Referring Children
All children enrolled at UTCDC have a beginning adjustment/transition into the program and, additionally, into new classrooms each calendar school year as they move to the next age group. Teachers begin collecting information for the purpose of an assessment each fall. The purpose of the assessment is to identify goals for children’s development and to use these goals to guide curriculum. An assessment can include anecdotal records, interactions, observed demonstrated abilities and other evidence of skill and ability. While children may have demonstrated abilities at home in a one-to-one setting, UTCDC’s goal is to assess children’s abilities in a group setting.
If a teacher identifies a child as having a developmental delay and/or with a deficiency in a skill or ability the child may be recommended for an evaluation. Teachers and administrators are not diagnosticians or health care providers and cannot diagnose or specifically identify a child with a learning or other disability. However, teachers and administrators are skilled at identifying issues that may indicate a learning need or difference and thus are appropriate for referral.
It is encouraged that parents follow through with all evaluation recommendations made by members of the school staff; however, it is not a requirement to remain enrolled in the program. Depending on the age of the child and the significance of the perceived developmental delay, recommendations will be made and may include the following:
- ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) for children under the age of three
- PPCD (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities) public school for children three years and older
- Private evaluation through parent insurance or private pay
UTCDC does not provide therapeutic evaluations or services, but does allow parents to arrange for therapy to take place at the center during school hours. UTCDC does not benefit in any way from referrals, evaluations or therapeutic services from any company or group. UTCDC will work with families to implement reasonable accommodations that may be identified as part of the evaluation
UTCDC does not provide one-to-one care for children, but provides assigned teachers to care for groups of children. If a child requires one-to-one care in order to participate in the program, parents may provide a personal assistant at their expense or to arrange a personal assistant through a government program.
Classrooms are arranged into interest areas of varying educational toys, materials, and games. These learning centers provide places for books, blocks, art, puzzles, science, manipulative materials, computers, and dramatic play. They provide practice in making decisions, following directions, working independently, and learning the care and use of materials. Children have the opportunity to work and play in these centers by choice, and may use them individually, with a friend, or in small groups.
Daily group times provide the opportunity for your child to learn in a large group setting. Group lessons include stories, music, gross motor activities, language experiences, and discussion of the current unit of study.
Physical activity is an important part of children's development. This type of activity promotes gross motor, social and proprioceptive development. Children participate in physical activity for about an hour in the morning and afternoon either indoors or on the playground, weather permitting. Physical activity may be structured or unstructured but both require clothing and footwear that will allow a child to participate freely and safely.
Cooking, growing plants, and going on nature walks enriches children’s experiences at the center. In addition, visiting experts on units of study share information with children through special activities. Children also have opportunities for music, creative movement, tumbling, and other large motor activities.
Extra Curricular Activity
We offer a Spanish Language Program year round at an additional cost. This class meets once a week and participation is optional.
Throughout the year, children engage in water play. During the summer months children have opportunities to participate in “splash days.” Children cool off outside by running through sprinklers and water hoses during splash days.
Older children’s classes involve field trips away from the center. These excursions provide the opportunity for extended learning and experience in the local community. Parents sign permission forms for each trip and are invited to participate; thus, parents volunteer to drive on field trips, and trips maintain high adult to child ratios. All children wear seat belts in transit, and emergency information accompanies the classes. There is always a CPR and first aid trained staff person present, and children are supervised closely at all times.
Classes occasionally view educational videos related to their current unit of study. All videos are previewed to evaluate content and suitability for the children’s age group. Videos will be listed on the lesson plan in advance.
Many classrooms have birds, hamsters, gerbils, or fish as classroom pets. Other animals may occasionally visit the school to assist teachers in exploring units of study. In the event that an animal visits the center, teachers post a notice on the classroom door in advance of the visit.
Independent toileting is an important part of early childhood education. Children’s readiness and parents’ wishes guide teachers as they assist children in accomplishing this developmental task.
Infants and young toddlers rest on their own schedules. All other children have a rest period following lunch each day, in which they may sleep or engage in a quiet activity. The center asks parents to supply a crib-sized fitted sheet for a mat and a small blanket, which parents should take home to launder weekly. Children may also bring a small pillow and a stuffed toy or security object, if they wish. All items must be labeled with the child’s name.
Observation and Research
Our program is utilized by various departments for university students’ education and research. Students observe children learning and playing in the classroom setting, and at times will conduct projects or activities. These are always approved and monitored by Child Development Center administration and teachers. Separate parental consent is required for research projects that involve direct interaction and recording of children’s behavior and/or language. The Child Development Centers follows requirements of the Institutional Review Board when research involves human subjects.