Skagit Preschool and Resource Center (SPARC) is a local non-profit organization serving the Skagit County Washington community.
We are a dedicated team who provides educational and therapeutic programs and services specifically for children with special needs,
birth to five years of age.
SPARC (Skagit Preschool and Resource Center) provides educational, therapeutic and behavioral programs for children with special needs from birth to five. SPARC offers opportunities for family education, participation and support so that families may become more knowledgeable about their child’s needs and goals and are better able to participate in enhancing their child’s development. Whenever possible, children with special needs participate in programs with other children in the community. SPARC strives to help children and families meet their unique challenges and participate fully in their community.
We believe that every child with developmental challenges can reach their potential when they and their families are provided support to meet their individual needs.
THE HISTORY OF SPARC
Skagit Preschool and Resource Center (SPARC) is thought to be the oldest private non-profit agency in Skagit County.
SPARC was founded in 1964 by a group of parents of children with severe disabilities. These children, between the ages of five and eighteen, had no available school experience. At first, the program consisted primarily of child care but gradually became an educational experience, with the hiring of teachers. This dedicated group of founding parents created a community based program that was replicated in several other counties.
In 1974, the State of Washington was one of the first states in the nation to pass an education for all act which mandated that all children regardless of special need had the right of a “free appropriate education.” At that point, the SPARC Board of Directors decided to follow a new path. Information regarding the importance of early intervention support services for families with special needs children, guided the decision for SPARC to become a preschool and early intervention services program.
In 1975, a new building was built on donated land in Burlington. This building is unique in our community because it was totally built through community efforts, mostly the local Kiwanis Clubs. No money from federal, state or local governments was used. The doors opened, in September, with three part time staff members and ten students.
The SPARC program has grown and changed many times over the years to meet the needs of families with young children who have special needs. During the late seventies and early eighties, SPARC served children from all school districts in both Skagit and Island counties. By 1984, SPARC had assisted Island County in establishing their own preschool program. Also in 1984, Washington State mandated school districts to provide services for preschool children with special needs. SPARC assisted some of the more distant districts to establish programs for their own for children who were three to five years of age. During each of the times of change, the numbers of young children served by SPARC stayed steady, due to the increased identification of needs in our community as well as the high quality of the SPARC program.
In 1984, SPARC also began a child care program because of general community needs and to provide children with special needs needed interactions with other children. This program, also, provided care for some of SPARC’s staff members with children.
In this same year, Mount Vernon School District, on SPARC’s behalf, built a new building in Mount Vernon to house the preschool program. The birth to three program and child care remained in Burlington. Over the next few years SPARC expanded by building a closer relationship with Head Start. SPARC served, and has continued to serve, the Head Start children with special needs in the Head Start programs by providing technical assistance, instructional assistants and therapeutic services as they were needed. In 2000 the Burlington office was closed.
SPARC has always tried to focus on meeting the needs of an expanding community and has taken an active role in community oriented projects. Particular importance has been focused on involvement in the Interagency Coordinating Council, now called Skagit County Children’s Council.. This group consists of approximately forty active agencies and family members working together for the support of families with young children in our communities. Through the ICC, many positive actions have occurred:
- The Connections Conference, providing education for professionals and family members supporting young children in our community. Conference has been held annually since 1994 with 500+ attendees each year.
- A Family Resource Center, where multiple agencies are located at a central location
- the Parent to Parent program, facilitates parents of children with special needs support each other has been established;
- In 1998, the Welcome Baby program was begun. Families of new babies in Skagit County received a visit before leaving the hospital and are given information on parenting literacy, community resources as well as a three year subscription to newsletters relating to the growth and development of young children.
SPARC has also participated in many other activities which assist in strengthening families in our communities.
- SPARC has served as the lead agency in Skagit County for the Infant and Toddler Early Intervention Program (ITEIP) of the Skagit County Interagency Coordinating Council.
- A program for children with hearing impairments was established until the schools were able to assume it as a cooperative program.
- SPARC was instrumental in the establishment of the countywide and nationally recognized Best Self program
- the At Risk Intervention Specialist program serving children of preschool age