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White Plains Childrens Center: The power of inclusion

When you approach the White Plains Children’s Center in Cary, NC, it doesn’t seem like anything special. Located behind White Plains Methodist Church with a small playground and excited children running into school, it appears to be like any other preschool.

But there is much more to WPCC than meets the eye.

Inside, one finds a model of inclusive learning. Of the few dozen students attending the day school, 50 percent are diagnosed with a disability, 50 percent are not. Students of all ability levels are educated alongside each other with remarkable effectiveness. 

Founded in 1982 as part of the outreach ministry of White Plains Methodist Church, WPCC now operates independently from the church as a nonprofit, 5 star licensed, developmental day school. Like so many centers for children with disabilities, it came to be after a group of concerned parents and community members saw that more could be done to support these kids and their families.

The center, serving as many as 55 students ages 12 months through 5 years, is committed to providing an individualized, differentiated, and collaborative education for each student, regardless of disability.

The way they see it, every child has an IEP, a set of unique needs that teachers must respond to. 

The center uses a collaborative and culturally competent approach in educating their students. They work with families, therapists, related service providers, and other experts to make sure the child’s education is as comprehensive and cohesive as possible. Full screening services are provided, meaning that any parent who is concerned about their child’s development can receive the support they need without leaving the school. 

The results of the center’s commitment to inclusive education show. In a typical year, nearly all of the students who attended WPCC go on to participate in the general curriculum, in a mainstream classroom, in Wake County Public Schools. Associate director Nicole Butters shared a story of  Ryan, a WPCC student diagnosed with both Down Syndrome and Apraxia, who was reading fluently by the time he started kindergarten.

WPCC is rich with success stories like Ryan’s. Children with disabilities surpass all expectations on a daily basis at the center, but the impact on students without disabilities is just as great. Parents, including executive director Wendy Partin, say that being educated at the center has given their children without disabilities a strong foundation for a lifelong inclusive mentality. The center puts great effort into finding and celebrating commonalities among their diverse students, all the while celebrating the things that make them different.

“I’m always trying to figure out how to serve as many kids as possible…I feel like it’s on my shoulders.” – Wendy Partin, Executive Director

Parents throughout the Triangle are seeking out WPCC for their children with and without special needs. The center has a long wait list, and staff say they receive 2-3 enrollment calls a day. Other centers throughout the state seek them out as a model of inclusive learning. 

At the White Plains Childrens center, the power of inclusion is clearer than ever before. 

Thank you to the entire staff at WPCC, in particular Madison Lewis, for hosting me and welcoming me into your school. 

Maggie Pearce

Maggie Pearce is a student at Appalachian State University and will graduate in December with a degree in adapted special education. After completing her student teaching in Wake County this fall, she plans to remain in North Carolina to teach students with significant disabilities. She attended Hunter Elementary, Ligon Middle, and Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh.