Middletown special needs center earns higher state rating

Abilities First serves more than 800 special needs children and adults.

Abilities First, a community education resource, has earned a four-star rating from state education officials for the first time in its 58-year history.

The non-profit school and learning center that serves more than 800 special needs children and adults has been a mainstay of Middletown since it opened its doors in 1958.

The Ohio Department of Education recently upped Abilities First rating – on a five-star scale – from three to four.

The “Step Up To Quality” rating allows the public to better measure an assisted learning center’s performance and standards beyond state minimums.

Recent months have seen historic growth for the $5 million-a-year operation that has been at its Timber Trail Drive site – next to but not associated with Middletown Schools’ Creekview Elementary – since 1968.

Abilities First’s program for autistic children has expanded from three students to 16.

And this spring ground is scheduled to be broken on an additional building on the center’s campus.

Of the center’s 800 clients served, 500 are children. It also offers a special needs adult day program.

The center includes an Early Childhood Learning School, which now enrolls 46 non-special needs children in grades one to five. And a wing of the center is devoted to pediatric therapy.

No local taxes go to funding the center but it operates via numerous state and federal funds used to meet the special needs of its enrolled children and adults.

Becky Lipp of Middletown is grateful for the center’s work with her special needs grandson, citing his “remarkable progress.”

“The staff always displays a commitment to teaching in a dedicated and loving manner,” Lipp recently told officials at the center.

Her grandson, she said, “responded better than we expected and I believe it is due to the excellent staff and programming.”

Debbie Alberico, director of marketing and development at the center, said “at Abilities First we believe everyone working at their full potential creates a more prosperous community. We are about helping everyone we serve reaching their full potential.”

AT A GLANCE: For the first time Abilities First has received a four-star rating – on a five-star scale – from the Ohio Department of Education's "Step Up To Quality" program.

Previously the non-profit, special needs learning center for children had earned three stars as its highest state rating.

The ratings are part of the state licensing process for such facilities.

According to state education officials: “The Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) is a five–star quality rating and improvement system administered by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. SUTQ recognizes and promotes learning and development programs that meet quality program standards that exceed licensing health and safety regulations. The program standards are based on national research identifying standards which lead to improved outcomes for children.”

For more information on Abilities First go to: www.abilitiesfirst.org

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