New play room honors beloved speech therapist at Rainbow Preschool

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 December 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Leah Pawlak, 5, checks out the new “Socio-Dramatic Play Center” that was dedicated on Thursday in memory of Rachel Miller, a speech therapist at Rainbow Preschool for 15 years.

Photo by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Children ages 3 to 5 in the Rainbow Preschool program often have significant developmental delays. Many of the children have autism and some of them have not spoken a word by the time they enroll in Rainbow Preschool.

For 15 years Rachel Miller worked as a speech pathologist at Rainbow. She helped many of the children say their first word. She was creative using games to get children to talk and express themselves.

She had a dream for a room that would allow children to role play. She thought it would be a fun way to get kids to learn and express themselves.

That dream has become a reality. The Arc of Orleans and Rainbow Preschool dedicated the “Socio-Dramatic Play Center” in memory of Miller, who was killed on March 4 at age 53.

Rachel Miller’s children – Amanda, Roy and Cody – attended the dedication for a play room in their mother’s memory. Rachel Miller has another daughter who lives out of state. She has 16 grandchildren.

Three of Miller’s children attended the dedication and cut the ribbon for the new room. Her daughter Amanda Miller, while fighting back tears, thanked a crowd of about 50 people that attended the dedication.

“I think it’s beautiful,” Miller said about the new room.

Her mother had a big personality, a big shoe collection, and a very big heart.

“Even when she was home, she was working, thinking about the kids,” Miller said.

The new play room used to be the nurse’s station. That was moved down the second floor in the Arnold Gregory Memorial Complex. The room now resembles a grocery store with tiny shopping carts for the children, as well as shelves, plastic fruit and vegetables, a cash register and other elements.

“This was one of her dreams,” said Linda Dressler, supervisor of the speech department. “She was all about play.”

Kellie Spychalski, Arc executive director, leads the dedication service for a room in memory of Rachel Miller.

Miller used to carry big boxes full of toys and supplies, her props for dramatic play sessions with students. Now the speech therapists can use the room in Miller’s memory.

Rainbow Preschool will change the themes in the room. When it opened in October, the site resembled a zoo and children could pretend they were a zookeeper. Dressler said the site will next be changed to resemble a pizza shop.

The room includes a plaque that notes Miller’s 15 years of dedicated service.

David Friedlander, director of educational services for the Arc, joined the agency in July. He supported the effort to create the room for Miller, a project driven by her co-workers.

“I’ve heard a lot of wonderful things about her,” Friedlander said. “She was loved.”