Mariellen Cupini, a licensed speech pathologist and certified School District Administrator, is the founder of Stepping Stones Learning Center (SSLC). Dedicated to inclusive education and interaction, her dream of developing and leading an early childhood educational facility became a reality in September of 1994.
Their first school month began with Mariellen teaching the student body made up of 9 students in one nursery school classroom at the present site in West Irondequoit. Thus, the dream took shape and SSLC was born. In January, 1995, approval was granted by NYS Department of Education and Department of Health to service children with special needs. The student body increased to 26 in the classroom plus 25 in the community. New staff from several different disciplines were added.
SSLC soon was recognized as a very special place -- where caring and learning, child laughter and joy, and children, with and without special needs, could learn together and be happy. News of SSLC spread throughout the community and the enrollment for early childhood and community services increased for the second year of operation.
Today Stepping Stones Learning Center is a fully inclusive program serving children with and without special needs ages birth to 21, in unique settings where they learn and grow together and from each other. Imbedded within this overall program is our inclusive early childhood school based classroom, clinic programs and community programs for youth. As we complete our 19th school year, we service 500 children and thier families from a multi county Rochester, NY area with a staff of 140 teachers and therapists, making us a very large employer. The children in our program represent nearly every municipality and school district within our Rochester area. These children receive special education interventions in classroom, clinic, and community settings as well as through collaborative efforts with Hillside Family Resource Center, Heritage Christian Homes, as well as Care A Lot and Generations Child Care Centers. Services include early childhood education, special education, speech, occupational, physical and music therapies as well as social work, psychological, behavioral and Autism services, Medicaid Service Coordination, Respite, and Community Habilitation. Our reputation for excellence has gained local, regional, and even national recognition, which has lead to working relationships with all the local and regional colleges/universities. These relationships allow us to host both student teachers/observers and even scientific studies. Our program for children with Autism is the focus of a National Institutes of Health study on Autism that is being conducted by the University of Rochester.
This incredible growth and demand for our services is driven by our mission to be the advocate and leader in the development and implementation of inclusionary services for children of all ages and backgrounds through the design of programs that meet the child's ever changing needs.