Early Childhood Programs

Curiosity. Wonder. Joy.

Our early childhood programs provide a welcoming and supportive learning opportunity for Deaf and hard-of-hearing infants, toddlers, and young children, as well as their families.  Our bilingual, language-rich environment provides students with full and early access to both American Sign Language (ASL) and English, promoting both incidental and planned learning.  We know that these early language interactions are so very important to the healthy development and educational success of our students.  Our goal is for all children and their families to learn, use, and understand ASL, and we support families on this journey.

Our early childhood programs, as well as the K-12 education programs, are free-of-charge to families.  The student must be Deaf or hard-of-hearing and qualify to attend as per the state guidelines, and they must reside in the 23-county area surrounding Rochester, New York, that RSD draws from.  We are always happy to answer questions and are ready to assist families in applying to RSD, getting the necessary referrals, and arranging transportation.


Our Programs

Infants and Toddlers (Birth to 36 months).  The Family Instructional Resource Service Team (FIRST)  Program supports our youngest learners and their families.  It begins with a home-based program for infants and toddlers from birth to 18 months of age. Children from 18 months to three years of age join us at our Early Childhood Center (ECC) for a half-day program. 

Preschool.  Children ages 3 and 4 and sometimes into the 5s attend a full-day preschool program at our Early Childhood Center (ECC).


Our Approach

We learn through play and exploration, igniting curiosity and creative expression. Our teachers incorporate their own experiences, as well as the children’s interests, to adapt the curriculum to be unique to each ECC class. Our curriculum and assessments provide guidance for teachers in the content areas of literacy, math, science, social skills, and the arts. 

The philosophy behind our curriculum is that young children learn best by doing. They benefit from active thinking and experimenting to find out how things work and to learn firsthand about the world we live in. 

We want children to become independent, confident, curious learners who can work well with others. We do this by creating purposeful and productive play experiences that help children grow in all of the following areas of development: cognitive, language, physical, and social-emotional. 

The ECC uses positive behavior interventions and support to create an optimal learning environment for our students. Our play-based curriculum offers children many opportunities for positive interactions with other children and adults. 

Through the activities we plan and the way we organize the classroom, select toys and materials, plan the daily schedule, and communicate with children, we give students a great start.  

Research on the brain and on learning shows how important the early years are in a child’s learning and development. What happens in the ECC matters a lot. And what you do at home is even more important. For this reason, we will work together as partners to help your child achieve success in school and life.


Highlighted Opportunities & Services

  • Small class sizes and reduced ratio classrooms.
  • Bilingual education in ASL and English (written and/or spoken English).
  • Certified teachers of the deaf and speech language pathologists.
  • Additional services to support academic, language, and social-emotional needs.
  • An extended-school-year summer program, when approved, to support ongoing educational and social development needs.
  • Collaboration with Early Intervention, specialists, teachers and families.
  • Family involvement as a vital component of our early childhood programs.
  • Free ASL classes to immediate family members.
  • Family support groups.

Summer School

The summer school (or extended-school-year) program is an important component of RSD early childhood programming. Many children who need on-going services attend throughout the summer months to further their development.

We take advantage of the nice weather to promote natural learning. In addition, we incorporate a variety of field trips, hands-on and interactive learning activities, and outdoor experiences to make it fun while addressing their academic needs.

Children, who are part of the ECC and whose CPSE or CSE has approved extended-school-year participation, are eligible to attend our summer program.


Parent & Family Involvement

Parents, as well as immediate and extended family members, have many opportunities to become involved in RSD and their children's education and development, including:
  • Early Childhood Center (ECC) and Parent Staff Association meetings, family brunches and dinners, home visits, and classroom gathering activities.
  • American Sign Language classes, special topic forums and group discussions presented by RSD faculty, specialists and invited presenters.
  • Family events and celebrations.
  • Networking with other RSD parents at school events and in family homes.
  • Family support groups.
Karen Windhorn
Director, Early Childhood Programs
RSD Parent Handbook

View and download a PDF file of the Parent Handbook.
Enrollment Assistance
  • For help in applying to RSD.
  • To schedule a campus tour.
  • For general intake referral information.
´╗┐Call: 585-336-5854
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