Note From The Executive Director

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I hope 2018 is off to a great start for you! 2017 ended with mixed emotions at Rise, as we lost one of our former beloved employees, Peter Naffah, to an unexpected and brief battle with meningitis. Peter was a Teachers’ Helper for more than five years at Rise. His unbridled joy for sports and socializing will not be forgotten. He was an outstanding role model for our students, and an inspiration to all of us, as a responsible, compassionate, happy man. I know I speak on behalf of countless families and students when I say he is, and will continue to be, deeply missed. A scholarship fund has been established in Peter's name. Any funds collected will be used to award a scholarship to the family of a child with Down syndrome. Your gifts can be sent directly to the school, or online here. Please designate any gifts "In Honor of Peter Naffah" or for the "Peter Naffah Scholarship Fund."

In the joyful, social spirit of Peter, please join us for an event we’re hosting on March 10. More information is shared below! There will be good views, good food, and good company, all in the name of continuing and expanding the inclusive environment that is Rise.

Meghan Klassen, M.Ed

Executive Director


News From The Ladybugs


The Ladybugs had a very busy fall - learning and adapting to new classroom rules, expectations, and that (much) longer walk down the hallway to the back of the building! I am so pleased with how well our school year is going. In the late Fall, we read the book Stone Soup and talked about the different ways we can be good neighbors and friends to each other -- by opening our hearts to one another and sharing what others might not have. Our Tuesday kiddos each brought in a different ingredient and together we made our very own Stone Soup! The kiddos worked hard to prepare their special ingredient brought from home, then added it to the big black pot. We waited, watched, and smelled our soup all the way up until lunchtime. Only a few of our kiddos actually ENJOYED the soup, but plenty were willing to try it!

In addition to our weekly theme, the Ladybugs are learning a lot about letters. Each week is dedicated to a certain letter of the alphabet. During that week we work on naming the letter, what sound the letter makes, how to build the letter with wood pieces, and then how to write the uppercase letter. We’ve applied this knowledge to our daily sign-ins, where each kiddo is working on identifying their name, drawing pre-writing strokes or simple shapes, and/or writing specific letters.

We had a wonderful first half of the school year, and are very proud of the progress each of our kiddos has made. We're looking forward to what the new year holds for our Ladybugs!

- Mrs. Megan, Lead Teacher

News From The Kangaroos


The Kangaroos have hopped right into their new classroom and adjusted very nicely to the new routine! We have been very busy the past few weeks learning all about fall, pumpkins and Halloween. We took a class field trip to the local pumpkin patch were the kids were able to pick out their own pumpkins. For a fun sensory activity, the kids helped carve and explore the inside of a pumpkin. Then they were able to see how a pumpkin can turn into a Jack O’Lantern by putting a candle inside and turning the lights out! And finally, for a science experiment, we turned the pumpkin into a volcano! It has been so fun to learn all about how pumpkins grow, harvesting pumpkins, Halloween and what happens in the season of fall.

The Kangaroos have already been reaching huge milestones such as walking independently, learning sharing strategies for play and huge bursts in language development! We are so excited to see all that the Kangaroos continue to accomplish as the year progresses!


- Ms. Claudia, Ms. Megan and Ms. Kristin


Note From The Executive Director

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October and November have been abuzz with trips to the Pumpkin Patch, Halloween fun, and parent-teacher conferences. These Fall parent-teacher conferences are always full of progress and promise — we set and review goals for all of our kiddos in each domain of development, and even just since August, many of our students have already accomplished the goals we set out for them. They are working hard, and becoming more independent each day!

We are scheduled to close on the purchase of our building next month — I have been busy meeting with individuals and foundations, working toward our $3 million goal. It’s definitely going to be comprehensive campaign and we welcome your support at any level that is meaningful. Please mark your calendars for Dec. 5 (Colorado Gives Day) to contribute toward making our dream of renovation and ownership a reality!

News From The PT

“Pigeon Toes”and Tripping in your Preschooler

What could be the cause of my new walker toddler’s feet turning in?

Tibial torsion is an inward twisting of the shin bones, causing the child’s feet to turn inward. This positioning is also sometimes called “pigeon toed” and it is actually commonly seen in toddlers. When children are first learning to walk, tibial torsion can create an in-toeing and bowed leg appearance. Pigeon-toed walking is a normal part of learning to walk, both due to bony alignment of the tibias and also to allow a child to feel more stable in standing. Development of stronger hip muscles (specifically the hip extensors/buttocks muscles) helps to create more stability and better alignment of the feet and leg through standing and weight bearing. This also effects proper bony development in hips and legs.

Is this something we need to address?

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Tibial torsion often improves with time. As the child grows, walking often becomes more and more normal, and tibial torsion is many times no longer significant by 5-6 years of age. 

In addition, tibial torsion does not lead to arthritis or any other health problems later in life. Tibial torsion can be associated with tripping over toes during walking and running due to foot positioning. When this becomes a safety concern or when it doesn’t improve with time and practice walking, it can be important to address. 

What should we do? 

Specific treatment is determined by your child’s health care providers based on child’s age, overall health, medical history, severity of condition, and other factors. A pediatric physical therapist, orthopedist or rehabilitation doctor may take a closer look at your child’s feet, legs and hips and perhaps even take an x ray of their hips. A child’s foot musculature continues to develop for up to age 4-5 years and bony formation continues up to age 7-8. In very young children with lower tone or ligamentous laxity, there might be significant “collapse” of the foot to the inside edge, most easily seen from looking at back view of the heel in standing. One can also see from the top view of the foot in standing, that the toes might tend to drift towards the little toe side. In this situation, the muscles of the foot could apply forces to the many bones of the foot creating atypical bony alignment. If this persists past the age of bony maturation in the foot, this flattened position of the foot will occur into adulthood. If this flatfoot position is significant, then orthotics might be prescribed to allow the foot to work through a dynamic pattern of walking and running in correct alignment. This creates optimal muscle activation, efficiency and bone growth. To address the pediatric flexible flatfoot, there are many types of orthotics from simple shoe inserts with arch supports or SMOS (supra malleolar orthotics). One can check with your child’s pediatrician or pediatric specialist to see what might be best for your child.

- Lisa Swenson, PT, C/NDT and Anne Ziegltrum, PT, DPT

1.    Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Website:
2.    Boston Children’s Hospital Website:

Note From The Executive Director

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Cheers to the Future, indeed! On behalf of the students and families of The Rise School, thank you for your support of our most successful Fall Gala to date, raising nearly $50,000! As I looked out upon on the crowd that evening, I saw a spectrum of people affected by The Rise School-- founding families and alumni students, staff, relatives, friends, and brand new Rise parents. How special that this school is so meaningful that all would gather to celebrate its impact and give so generously to help us achieve our dream. My sincere thanks to each one of you!

- Meghan Klassen

News From The OT

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The Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) program is part of the Rise School curriculum. All of the classrooms use parts of the curriculum depending on the developmental level of the students. This program was developed by an occupational therapist and uses developmentally appropriate lessons that break difficult concepts into simple tasks. When you think of a “handwriting program,” you may automatically think of learning how to write letters and numbers and names. This, of course, is part of HWT; however, there are many very important developmental skills that this program addresses BEFORE a child begins to write his name. The HWT program that is mainly used at Rise is “Get Set For School.” This program uses music, movement, and multisensory manipulatives to teach all the core readiness skills including pencil grasp, letter and number recognition, number and capital letter formation, and body awareness.

Principles of the HWT program that may be different than other early education handwriting programs:

·        HWT teaches how to write all the uppercase letters first because uppercase letters are the easiest letters to write, developmentally speaking; uppercase letters are easy to recognize; uppercase letters are the same height; uppercase letters all start at the top.

·        HWT emphasizes correct pencil grasp and use of the helper hand.

·        HWT teaches starting at the top and progressing left to right for all writing tasks.

·        HWT uses visual cues for all pre- writing and writing activities.

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·        HWT includes manipulatives, such as the wood pieces, to help early learners develop body awareness and learn letter formation.

If you have questions about what HWT activities are happening in your child’s classroom, please feel free to ask the teacher or Lynn. HWT materials are easily accessible on their website ( for parents and teachers.

Best of all, Handwriting Without Tears is a FUN way for your child to enter the exciting world of handwriting!

- Lynn Vosbeek, OTR

News From The Bears

The Bears classroom is off to a “roaring” start this year with a wonderful, silly group of kiddos. These past few weeks, they have been hard at work learning routines, meeting new friends, and exploring everything around their new classroom and school. As each days goes by, we’re so proud to see how comfortable the kids have become with their teachers, therapists, and a brand-new schedule. This is a tough transition for little ones, and they’ve all joined right in, filling the classroom with laughter, smiles, and lots of playing and learning.

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We started the school year with a “get-to-know-the classroom” mentality with simple themes such as Welcome to School, and My Family and Me. Now that the kids have become more accustomed to the classroom, we’re finishing up an Apple Theme that allowed kids to explore an item that was already familiar to them. Such a simple, everyday item taught them about colors, sizes, and textures and allowed them to move their bodies to reach for apple picking, and roll apples like balls. The kiddos also got to explore paint with their feet and have sensory experiences with apple pie-scented play dough and a cinnamon oats table. We could tell that the kids have been really enjoying the variety of projects, sensory activities, and fun that came along with exploring apples, so we will be continuing to bring activities into the classroom that excite their senses and get them moving!

We’ve already seen some amazing accomplishments and milestones from the Bears from new words and sounds, to standing independently, and taking some first steps. We feel so privileged to continue to watch their growth throughout the school year, and are excited to see what other exciting successes we can celebrate with our little ones!

- Ms. Therese and Ms. Tristen

Note From The Executive Director

September 5, 2017-  It was a pleasure to welcome new and returning students last month-- We are serving 52 students this year, the most in school history. And as we look toward the promise of serving even more students with our renovation/expansion project, we invite you to come “Cheers to the Future” with us at our Fall Gala on Sept. 23. We have some incredible items to bid on (see link below for a sneak peek!), and will have music entertainment to close out the evening in true celebratory fashion! Please join us—I’m looking forward to seeing new, current, and alumni families, and toasting to our future with you!

Note From The Executive Director

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Happy summer! As we swing into our last full month of school, the Pre-K class is busy preparing for another marvelous graduation ceremony. This year, we are graduating 12 students, who will be moving on to elementary schools in Denver, Cherry Creek, Littleton and Douglas County school districts. Whether they have been with us for four years or one year, this class (like the many before it) has forged meaningful relationships across ability levels. Everyone is a friend, and everyone belongs. Never is our mission more evident than when we look back on a class’s time together and celebrate how far they have come, and their unlimited potential to go out into the world and make their mark. Congratulations to the Class of 2017! 

- Meghan Klassen, M.Ed.

News From The Music Therapist

Music, Neoroplasticity and Auditory Processing

Something I have always found fascinating is that music has shown to actually change the brains physical structure and connectivity between the right and left hemispheres. Though research doesn't fully understand all the therapeutic benefits of music, it does theorize that simply listening and singing and engaging in music in childhood lays down a framework for which memory, language and executive functioning skills can thrive.  Young brains are ever changing which is a huge benefit for children who may have auditory processing challenges. Why? Because the brain can be taught to process sounds and language correctly by providing repetitive, relevant stimuli.  Music also challenges the brain to listening for patterns and differentiate sound and tones. Music also provides deep-seated interactions between which may support language delays. So when your music maker is creating music at Rise those brains are receiving optimal musical exercises in music therapy!

- Laura Ganguli, Board Certified Music Therapist

News From The Caterpillars

Summer at Rise is officially here :) You can smell the sunscreen down the halls, hear the kids carefree laughter on the playground, and see some tearful parents as they think about moving on to Kindergarten. 


The Caterpillars have been working so hard all year for their transition. Not only have they learned classroom routines, letters, patterns, and days of the week; but they have also mastered The Rise way by learning together with all of their friends and making friendships, regardless of differences. Although our Caterpillar's will be going to different schools next year, the friendships and what they've taught us will last a lifetime. Whether you've been at Rise since the Bear's classroom or were new this year, the transition to Kindergarten can be tough for our kiddos and our parents. 


During the last month of school, each Caterpillar kiddo will have a whole day dedicated to them; where we spend the whole day talking about all the things that we love about each other and all the special memories we have with them. The kiddo's posters with all this love with be displayed at Graduation. Please come celebrate our amazing graduates on July 13th at 10:00 am, followed by a fun potluck at the park. 

Note From The Executive Director

As a teacher and director, I have always enjoyed getting to watch families grow. Just in the last year, 10 of our Rise families had babies! It has me thinking in this month of May about mothers.  As all of us can probably attest from our own experiences, there is no profession or vocation quite like motherhood. My own mother had seven children in nine-and-a-half years, a feat I have only come to understand and truly appreciate in my adult years. It brings such joy when our families announce pregnancies, grow maternal bellies, and then tote little ones through the door in carseats and add them to our growing waitlist. So today, I want to give a shout-out to all our Rise mommies— for your strength and grace in feeding, laundering, appointment-scheduling, advocating, chauffeuring, nurturing, encouraging, and loving your little ones. It is a privilege to share in the care and education of your children. Happy Mothers’ Day to all of you!

-Meghan Klassen, M. Ed

News From The Speech Therapist


Ditching The Sippy!

Sippy cups seem great- they are convenient and there are no spills to clean up, but there are several reasons to consider ditching the sippy cup. First, hard sippy cup spouts may get in the way of feeding and swallowing development. When your child was a baby he used an anterior-posterior tongue movement to move liquid from the front to the back of the mouth for swallowing. After a year old, kids learn to put their tongue up behind their teeth when swallowing. Hard spouted sippy cups, may get in the way of the necessary tongue placement, preventing tongue tip elevation and interfering with feeding and swallowing development. A tongue that does not elevate tends to rest in a forward position and then may not be able to produce speech sounds accurately. In addition, tongues that rest too far forward can lead to an open mouth resting posture, mouth breathing, and changes in facial structure.

What to use instead?

Straw cups or open cups!  There are lots of good cup options on the market, but here are a few:

Straw cups that pop up to prevent leaking such as the Playtex Sipster Straw Cup







Aluminum cups with built-in straws such as the Kid Basix Safe Sippy Cup (it is a straw cup)










Munchkin 360 Miracle Cup- can be used to teach open cup drinking with less spilling

News From The Ladybugs

The Ladybugs have been very busy this past month! We dove into our spring unit where the kiddos enjoyed talking about different springtime activities, learning about the lifecycle of flowers, and we finished with planting some of our very own flowers! With some sunlight, water, and a lot of waiting time, some of our flowers have finally begun to sprout. Some of our kiddos have been diligently checking in on their flowers and their tender loving care has finally paid off!

This past week we began our unit on Community Helpers, which has always been one of my favorites. This unit allows for the kiddos to engage in dramatic play scenarios with intentionality, which is always fun to watch. Last week, we started talking about different kinds of community helpers. I asked if anyone knew what a doctor who takes care of animals is called, and one of our sweet kiddos said, “Yeah! A vegetarian!” We also talked about what we might want to be when we grow up. Our kiddos chose professions such as doctors, chefs, police officers, moms, dads, and even a princess. We’re looking forward to a visit from a couple of volunteer firefighters come mid-May!  

I’m so proud of all of our kiddos. Each has made such wonderful progress since August. We’re looking forward to finishing the year strong!

Megan Gallager, M. Ed

Lead Teacher, Ladybug Class

Note From The Executive Director

We are back fresh from Spring Break, ready to tackle our last quarter of the year! As always, we have new walkers, new talkers, new readers. The kiddos have come so far this year, and we plan to enjoy our spring months playing and learning inside and outside. I will also be outside—taking on my fourth Elephant Rock bike ride, raising funds for Rise. This year, I decided not to drag my mountain biking team down anymore, and am registered for the 27-mile course. Believe me when I say that if you are even slightly inclined to participate, there is a course for you! The 8-mile “Family Ride” is full of riders of all abilities, and is easy and fun. If you’re up for more of a challenge, try the 27, 40, 62, or 100-mile course. No matter what course you choose, there will be Rise friends, cold beverages and good cheer waiting for you at the finish!

News From The Occupational Therapist

Preschool is a wonderful time for your children to engage in pre-writing activities.  Here at Rise School the days are filled with pre-writing tasks, many of which look like play but these fun activities are encouraging finger and hand strength, finger dexterity, eye-hand coordination and core stability – all skills needed for writing.  Especially important is the development of pencil grasp.  Following is a picture of the developmental progression of pencil grasp.  In the classrooms we observe your children during coloring, drawing, painting, etc. so we know what grasp they are presently using and then develop activities that will help them progress to the next developmental grasp.

The following is a list of activities that encourage developmental progression of a child’s pencil grasp:
•    Working at a vertical surface (painting at an easel, drawing on a chalkboard,  placing stickers on paper taped to the wall, playing with magnets on the fridge) – encourages trunk stability and strength, shoulder stability, arm strength, wrist extension
•    Wheelbarrow walking – weight bearing on hands encourages strength in upper body, shoulder, arms and hands; also gives needed tactile input to palm of hands
•    Squeezing, stretching, rolling PlayDoh, clay, theraputty – improves finger and hand strength
•    Picking up small beads, beans, buttons, macaroni, pom poms and placing in the opening of a plastic bottle – improves strength and efficiency of the pincer grasp (thumb and index finger)
•    Pinching clothespins onto edge of paper plate or cardboard box – improves finger and hand strength
•    Using different sizes and types of writing tools (markers, skinny chalk, fat crayons, skinny and short crayons, colored pencils, etc.) allows the child to explore and practice different ways of holding the tool

- Lynn Vosbeek, OT

News From The Kangaroos

The Kangaroo class has been very busy in 2017!!! Recently we did a unit on food and manners. The kids measured out different ingredients to make a cheerio dessert. This was a fun and tasty math activity! For a sensory activity, the kids played with spaghetti! The kangaroos also learned how to set the table, sorted fruit loops by color, how food gives us energy and how drinking water can keep us healthy and hydrated! 

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Earlier this year we did a unit on love, sharing and friendship. This was a fun way to talk about different social emotional skills. The Kangaroos were able to make friendship bracelets for each other, discuss how we treat our friends at The Rise School and in the world! We have been working on sharing with timers and our waiting for a turn song.

Recently we started a community helper’s unit and have been discussing teachers, mail carriers, doctors and dentists. The kangaroos worked on pre-writing skills and made their own postcards with stamps. They then delivered their postcards to other classrooms and in a mailbox in the Kangaroo room. After spring break, we will be learning about firefighters and police officers and headed on a field trip to a local fire station! 

We are so proud of our Kangaroos for all the progress they have made this year academically, socially and with language development!

- Claudia, Megan and Kristin

Dr. Dannah Raz answers "What's That Rash?"

We often think of the winter months as the most common months for viral and bacterial illnesses. However, many of these illnesses occur throughout the year, some are just more prevalent during certain times of the year. While many of these illnesses can have “classic” signs and symptoms, they can often vary from to child to child. There are some to be on the lookout for, especially with children that attend daycare or are in any time of school setting.  The attached chart outlines some illnesses to be aware of. It is important to note that all children, when able, should receive immunizations according to the schedules recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). While immunizations do not protect against many of the illnesses that are listed in the chart (only Pertussis), they do prevent against other serious illnesses that luckily are no longer highly prevalent in our communities due to the improvement in vaccination rates. This does not mean, however, that these illnesses do not still exist. 

One of the best ways to prevent many contagious illnesses is to practice good hand washing. According to the CDC, you should wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap. When you lather your hands with soap, make sure to pay attention to the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails, as well. A good lather should take about 20 seconds (about the time it takes to hum the entire song of “Happy Birthday” twice). After you rinse your hands, make sure to dry them using a clean towel, or air dry. If soap and water is not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the next best option, although they do not eliminate ALL types of germs. These should be kept out of the reach of children as they contain alcohol.  Another important step that can help prevent the spread of illness is to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. You can start to teach your little ones how to do this, as well!

Please keep in mind that the attached chart does not replace the advice and opinion of the medical professional caring for your child, nor is meant to be a diagnostic tool. It is merely meant to inform you of common childhood illnesses. If you think your child may have one of these or if you have any questions about your child, it is important that you reach out to your child’s primary care provider.  With any illness, please seek medical attention for any concerns, regardless of the diagnosis. 

Note From The Executive Director

Over the last few weeks, I have accompanied some Rise families to tours of public elementary schools in the area to help them make informed selections for the School Choice process. As a visitor, I was considering the environment for both typically developing children and children with special needs. I was surprised by the different populations that each school serves, as well as the resources (or lack thereof). For those parents well into the process, or those still looking ahead to this transition, I thought it might be helpful to have a list of questions to ask when considering what school might be right for your child. 

•    Average student class size?
•    Staffing ratios (How many students per teacher or teaching assistant?)
•    What specials are offered (i.e. P.E., music, technology, art)
•    Does the Kindergarten (or 1st grade) team have expectations of incoming students for certain skills (i.e. counting, letter identification, writing first/last name, etc.) 
•    What extracurricular activities are offered? Is before-school and after-school care available? If so, is it on-site? 
•    What therapy services are available? (i.e. PT, OT, Speech, psychologist, social worker)
•    Are the therapists itinerant or in-house? If itinerant, how many hours spent on this campus?
•    For children on IEPs, what population of students does your campus serve? (i.e. learning disabilities, mild-moderate, moderate-severe, Autism-specific, cross-categorical, etc.) 
•    What is the administration’s or school’s philosophy on inclusion?

It is my estimation that as parents, you will be able to determine pretty quickly whether or not a school would be a good fit for your child, especially given the information above. Our Rise students have gone to elementary schools all over the metro area, and we have found that so much of their experiences depend on their classroom teacher, the administration and its philosophies, and your involvement as a parent. Good luck and please stop in if I can be of any help!