How this Orlando-area school changes lives of children, adults with motor disabilities

CECO combines social, communication, motor skills with academics

WINTER PARK, Fla. – There's a special place in Orlando that's giving hope to dozens of families, some of which have even moved from other cities and countries so their child can live a better quality of life.

"We took a tour and we were like, 'Wow, we found our home. We're gonna move,' so we packed up, moved from Miami to Orlando," Claudy Caidor said.

Caidor's 10-year-old son was born with cerebral palsy. Six years ago, the family found renewed hope at Conductive Education Center of Orlando.

Caidor's son, Tashal, is part of  the yellow class, one of two programs within the class, where students with cerebral palsy or a neurological disorder are placed in a laying position.

"When they are in laying position, that's the easiest position to practice movement, and then once they master in laying position, then they can use it in other positions," CECO program director Krisztina Weiszhaupt said.

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Students practice how to grab, hold, bring their arms up and stand -- all while singing a tune.

"Being here is giving us hope," Caidor said.

But it's about more than that, according to founder Vicky Raymond.

"It's not just giving hope. It's showing them. It's teaching them that they can do it. It's giving them the skills, the positive reinforcement," Raymond said.

CECO is getting results for kids and adults with motor disabilities through a method developed in Hungary. With intensive training, they help students strengthen their muscles and form new connections in the brain.

"When you have a child with disabilities, most often they're in a wheelchair. Well, not at CECO. They're motivated and stimulated to be active and happy, and when they come in that door in the morning, they know that they are in a happy place," Raymond said. 

Raymond and her husband started CECO after their son was born 3 months premature and suffered brain damage. CECO combines conductive education programs with academics.

In the purple class, high school-age students learn about science.

They also engage in life skills, like folding laundry and emptying the dishwasher.

"It's very important that the activities that we try to introduce to our students or we ask them to do -- it is motivating them. It's fun and it makes them very successful. That's very important for them to feel that 'I can do this. This is what I did all by myself,'" Weiszhaupt said.

Caidor said it's emotional to see her son's progress.

"When I see him doing this program called Mind Play, and he's saying, 'I can,' he can find the word 'can.' I'm like, 'Wow, my son can do that,'" Caidor said.

Raymond said they focus on teaching students what they can do, and to make sure they don't get stuck feeling like they can't do something.

"We hear all of our lives what our kids can't do, that they're not going to be able to, but when you come to CECO, you know that they can do things. We see it. We hear it. And you can envision that they have a bright future ahead of them," Raymond said.

CECO also offers after-school programs and programs for infants. Later this year, CECO officials expect to start the adult program full time for adults up to 40 years old.

CECO is a nonprofit private school of choice. Students enrolled qualify for Gardiner and McKay scholarship funding, which is provided through the state.

Throughout the year, the center raises funds for $6,000 per student scholarship for every child attending the school program.

The center also operates with help from grants and donations from the community. If you'd like to make a donation, visit CECO.org.

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