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Child Development

Podcast: Child Development Screening Part Two

WithinReach podcast

Part two of our child development series is here! Emma and Stephanie talk about social and emotional development and why it’s important to pay attention to this area early in your child’s life.

Listen to part one for background before this episode!

Complete a free child development questionnaire (social-emotional or general), and learn more about this service.

Tags: Ages and Stages Questionnaire   ASQ   ASQ:SE   Child Development   Developmental Screening   

Wave your flag of inclusion with Family Support Coordinator Jen!

WithinReach podcast
You might remember Jen from her previous blog posts. As a Family Support Coordinator, Jen works directly with families to connect them with support and resources for children and teens with special health care needs. She graciously agreed to come on the WithinReach Podcast to talk about what it means to be a Family Support Coordinator, how she got to WithinReach, and how she sees the world of special needs and disability. Enjoy!

Don’t forget to check out the first episode of the WithinReach Podcast!

Tags: Child Development   inclusion   neurodiversity   Special needs   WithinReach Podcast   

Teen parents connect in GRADS

Written by Stephanie Orrico, Child Development Coordinator
One rainy Monday morning, I visited the GRADS program for teen parents at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, WA. The GRADS program offers pregnant and parenting teens support in reaching graduation, including life skills, parenting education, and affordable on-site childcare. I went to see the teen parents to talk with them about child development and the importance of regular developmental screenings for their babies; I was also interested to meet a demographic of parents that I don’t interact with very often to see how we can better serve them. As a Child Development Coordinator I am always looking for new ways to engage parents across the state and encourage them to be active participants in monitoring their child’s development.
Looking at the young parents in the room as they filled out development screenings, I marveled at the resilience each teen has built while becoming a parent.
One parent, Celeste (not her real name), shared with me how much her life had transformed in a short period of time. When she discovered she was pregnant, she made the courageous move from the small town where she grew up to Vancouver, in search of more support and opportunities. Having been homeschooled all her life, entering public school was yet another transition during an already unstable time. The GRADS program offered Celeste the practical and psychological stability she needed to settle in. She shared that the other teen parents in the program relate to you in a way other students cannot – “they understand you.”
Her son benefits from the GRADS program, too, interacting with the staff and other children in the childcare. In addition to GRADS, Celeste utilizes the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program to become the best parent she can be. In NFP, a parent mentor (who is a nurse by trade) visits the home twice a month for 2 years, providing logistical and emotional support during those critical years. With her nurse, Celeste has learned to track her son’s development using an Ages and Stages Questionnaire. Each time she completes the tool, she discovers a new skill he has learned and her nurse suggests activities that help her son grow.

The ASQ is one of many tools that the GRADS program uses to build confidence in teen parents; it works to empower them and make them the experts on their babies’ development. From a homeschooled teen in a small town to a confident Vancouver mother, Celeste tapped into GRADS and NFP to build her skill set and support network and to offer her son a healthy start. These students are a testament to the value of stable, positive investment in young parents.

Tags: Ages and Stages Questionnaire   ASQ   Child Development   GRADS   Hudson's Bay High School   NFP   Nurse Family Partnership   teen parents   

Have a happy, inclusive holiday season

Holiday gatherings, for me, are filled with so many things that I love: a chance to be close to people I don’t often get to see, lovely decorations like bright twinkling lights, festive music, delicious and special foods, and a divergence from the usual routine of work and school.  However for my son, that very same list translates to a barrage of sensory and structural chaos that can be overwhelming: the unfamiliar people vying for hugs, the visually distracting lights and decorations, the loud (to his ears) music, the strange foods, and the variance from the comfort and perceived safety of his established daily routine.  This can be hard for family and friends to understand, especially when these aspects of the holidays can seem so essential to the season.  It can be a difficult gap between experiences to try and reconcile as a parent or person with autism or other sensory processing issues.  We want to be a part of these special occasions, but we also want to mitigate potential melt downs resulting from sensory overload, and the physical and emotional fall-out associated with them.  Often this results in opting out of many meaningful celebrations, but it shouldn’t–and doesn’t– have to be that way.
After many years of spectacular wipe-outs (and wins, too!), here is my short list of holiday coping strategies that I have found useful for my family:
Know your exits

It may seem counterintuitive to start out a list about participation with an escape plan, but this has always been at the core of my family’s own success in holiday festivities.  Whether it is a lighting ceremony, dinner, performance, party, or even a photo shoot, we make sure that we plan our exits in advance.  We talk out scenarios like needing to duck out of an event early (where are the least disruptive exits?), coping with impending melt-downs (where is a quiet space we can go?), and reconvening if we get split up (is there a place nearby to hang out?).

Another reason to know your exits is for the safety of containment: if you have a child who is skilled in the art of elopement, then knowing the potential escape points can help you troubleshoot in advance.  My son has fled the scene of events a few times when things got overwhelming.  We were glad that we knew where he could and would go, so he was not lost in an unfamiliar place.

Communicate in advance

To the extent possible, include your hosts and relevant attendees in on your situation.  Reactions of course vary, but often I have found disclosure met with compassion.  Gratitude and explanation can go a long way toward making a space more inclusive. For example, “We are so grateful for the invitation to great-aunt Tilly’s dinner party, and here are just a few things that would really help Joe feel comfortable”.

Enjoy specialized events

When my son was very young and very squirrely, I had the great luck of finding a holiday photo opportunity that met him where he was at, rather than having him fit into a situation that really wouldn’t work.  One example of an inclusive adaptation to tradition is Caring Santa, an event that allows appointments to be made in advance, making it easier for families to prepare for, as well as an opportunity to participate among families who are going through similar experiences.

Other events to enjoy during the holidays and year-round include special opening times for museums such as Seattle’s Pacific Science Center and Olympia’s Children’s Museum,  sensory-friendly movies, and even just going to the park.

Be kind to yourself

Holidays can be fun but they can also be stressful.  Be as kind and empathetic to yourself as you are to those you love.  It can be hard not to want to live up to a social ideal or norm of what the perfect holiday experience should be.  Employ your skills of calm breathing, and be prepared to change things around if it feels like a situation just won’t work.  We have tried a lot of different events in my family, with a lot of different results.  The successful ones we incorporate into our holiday routine, and the others we let go – and perhaps try again another time.

Families are like snowflakes

The snowflake might be an over-used analogy, but I do believe that it reflects the unique and individual qualities – within and among – families.  Together families share many commonalities of cultural tradition, but individually we can and should enjoy and express those traditions in the ways that fit our families best.  Pickles, olives, and macaroni and cheese may not seem like a joyous holiday meal to some, but to my son it brings unwavering delight.  We may not sit through an entire production of the Nutcracker ballet, but we enthusiastically and meticulously line up our collection of small nutcracker statue over and over again throughout the season…and sometimes longer.  Participating in these cultural touchstones brings me and my family joy, and sharing our experiences with others helps promote a wider understanding of the importance of inclusion.

Enjoy your holidays!

Tags: Autism   Child Development   families   holiday activities   holidays   inclusive   special needs kids   

Community power in Central Washington

In my previous blog entry, I wrote of the importance of community for individuals and families who experience a special need or special health care need. To follow up on that topic, I’d like to explore a little bit about what components we can look for or cultivate in creating and sustaining community.  As a parent and a professional, something that I often find myself doing is looking for existing strengths as an opportunity to build community.  For a child, this strength might be a hobby or game, such as Minecraft: that’s definitely something kids can come together around!  For a community, an existing strength might be a fantastic parks system or even a parent network.
Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time in the beautiful Central Washington city of Moses Lake as part of a state-wide series of trainings for primary care providers and community outreach professionals for our work with children and youth with special health care needs. These trainings are in collaboration with the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. During my visit to Moses Lake, I found a great deal of community strengths for positive child development! From Birth to Three, to Family Services, to Integrated Services, to Inspire, there are many local resources available to families.  It was wonderful to see how these agencies work together to support a community of families and the people they interact with, such as teachers, home visitors, speech and occupational therapists, support groups, recreation groups, and medical providers.
One community member that I had the great pleasure of meeting is Deborah McVay, also known as the Library Lady.  In her outreach role with the North Central Regional Library, she has been facilitating connections between families and agencies for over 20 years over several counties in Central Washington.  She has a wealth of long-term community knowledge that helps strengthen the families she works with, and in turn strengthens the community.  It is an important mutual relationship, especially in a region where communities and individuals can be less connected geographically. Deborah bridges that distance with her outreach.  She also works as a liaison between families who are new to the language and region, and helps them prepare their children for school.When I asked her what she thinks makes her work so successful, she answered

“Families trust me, they know me.  I might come for story time and also show them how to help their kids become more ready for kindergarten.  For example, if they are making chili for dinner, I encourage them to cut out pictures from the newspaper to make a grocery list that their children can participate in.”

In this very accessible way, Deborah is finding the existing strengths in her families and fostering tools for early literacy.

Another example of individuals acting as community liaisons are the proprietors of the Red Door café. The Red Door is a welcoming space for the community at large, as well as a space for groups such as Parent to Parent and the Down Syndrome Society of Grant County to gather and build individual, family and community strength. In my conversation with co-owner Lisa Boorman, I learned about how the community has grown over the years in terms of what families can access for support, and how some of the larger structures such as the School District and the Boys and Girls Club are becoming more inclusive of ability diverse kids and families.

Afterward, while riding the public bus through town, I learned from the bus driver/informal tour guide about the newly built Community Services Office and all the important services that individuals and families can access under one roof: food benefits, developmental disabilities administration, financial assistance, and more. It was a great example of how something that could be perceived as a challenge – a smaller town with less infrastructure than bigger cities – is actually a strength. The tight knit network of community members and service providers within this rural community facilitates a feeling of no wrong door. Whether you are at the library, school, pediatrician, café, and yes, even on the bus, the chances are good that someone knows how to get you connected to support.

When a community comes together in solidarity and support of its members with special needs, everybody benefits.  As this season of gratitude and generosity begins, let’s try to think about how we can connect with our community in a more intentional way and create space for all families to succeed.

Tags: Child Development   Community Health   families   Washington state   

Back to (pre-)school partnerships

Over the last year and a half, the Bothell Family Co-op Preschool has partnered with Help Me Grow to expand use of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ).  The expansion includes working with preschool teachers and families to allow ASQ results to be part of the parent-teacher conversation, and for the results to inform and improve practices in the classroom. Since the trial run was so successful, we are excited to expand this service to other affiliated co-op preschools within the Shoreline Community College’s Parenting Education Program this fall.

Co-op Preschools Provide Optimal Environment for Parent Engagement

The cooperative preschool model brings parents and skilled educators together to provide a rich learning experience for children. Parents assist in their child’s preschool once a week and attend meetings on child development, kindergarten readiness, emotion coaching and more. Parents are active partners in their children’s learning and development. Educators are poised to help reframe developmental screening—once seen as a strictly diagnostic tool—as an educational strategy for optimizing child development that is suitable for all children.

Unique Professionals

The preschool teachers have unique insight into co-op families’ lives, and are trusted sources of information. To support this valuable dynamic, WithinReach offers its ASQ to preschool teachers to bring to their students’ families. The ASQ can spark important conversation with parents about their child’s development. Teachers are trained to present the tool and empower parents to observe their child’s skills. In addition to parent education, the results can inform how teachers plan their curriculum.

Help Me Grow

WithinReach’s Help Me Grow team equips teachers to present the ASQ and utilize the results. Teachers direct families to WithinReach’s free online ASQ, where parents complete and submit it. A WithinReach Child Development Specialist calls each parent to discuss their results, along with any community resources to foster child growth, e.g. Play & Learn groups or additional evaluation. With parent permission, WithinReach staff sends a copy of the results to the preschool teacher. WithinReach’s unique role involves lending parents a fresh ear, triaging families to community resources, and informing teachers of each child’s developmental status so that everyone can work together to create a positive learning environment.

We are excited about this partnership, unique population, and opportunity to expand access to developmental screening in a new and creative way.

For more information about the Help Me Grow program, call our WithinReach Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or visit Parenthelp123.org

Tags: Ages and Stages Questionnaire   Child Development   Developmental Screening   Help Me Grow   preschool   

Community connections for children with special health care needs

I have two children, both of whom occupy varying points on the autism spectrum (often depending on the day) with some other health issues thrown into the mix.  As they have grown, so have their amazing personalities; so have the challenges.  I suspect it is not all that different for parents of typically-developing children.  Community can be particularly important for families with children who present unique challenges (and skills!) beyond the usual antics.  However, for reasons from accessibility, to awareness, to stigma, those challenges/differences can be isolating.

Children and youth with special health care needs are those who have or are at risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional condition and who also require health and related services beyond what children generally require.  For example, a child who has a developmental disability such as Down syndrome, as well as asthma or allergies, would be considered to have a special health care need.  Another example might be someone with ADHD and diabetes.  In Washington State, an estimated 235,920 children and youth under age 18 have a special health care need – that is 15% of all youth.  Connection to health care, education, community, and family support are important factors in the quality of life for individuals with special health care needs and their families.

One important resource for children and families with a diagnosed or potential special health care need is Early Intervention, which is a system of services that can help infants and toddlers with disabilities or delays to learn key skills and catch up in their development.  For children from birth to age three, Washington State Early Intervention providers offer free developmental evaluations and support services like speech, physical, or behavior therapy.  These services “are designed to enable young children to be active, independent and successful participants in a variety of settings.”

In addition, Washington State has a robust and active family network of support when it comes to children and youth with special health care needs.  From Parent to Parent, to PAVE , to the Father’s Network, caregivers with personal experience navigating the emotional and logistic complexities of special health care needs are an important resource.  Whether you are just starting out on your journey, or have a question relating to a very specific diagnosis, chances are there is another family out there who has been down a similar path and can offer some experiential advice.

Raising children is hard and beautiful and humbling.  It is a deeply individual, personal experience while at the same time having the capacity to be incredibly unifying.  Parent and caregiver networks, supportive clinicians, and educational advocates have proved invaluable in my own journey to empower myself and my children to thrive and contribute as members of our local community.  Working at WithinReach, I have the opportunity to help other families thrive, too.

To find out if your child would benefit from early intervention, ask your primary care provider or call our specialists at the Family Health Hotline (1-800-322-2588). This statewide, toll-free number offers help in English, Spanish and other languages.

You can find out more about peer support networks by calling the Answers for Special Kids line at 1-800-322-2588 or by visiting www.ParentHelp123.org.

 

Tags: Autism   Child Development   Developmental Screening   Early Intervention   Family Health Hotline   ParentHelp123   Special needs   Washington state   

Updated WIC Materials Are Here!

Last year, the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program, known as WIC, made a difference for over 304,000 people in Washington State. WIC helps improve the health of pregnant women, new moms, and families with children under age 5 through monthly checks for healthy food, health screenings and referrals, breastfeeding support, and nutrition education. Dads, grandparents, and other caregivers of children under the age of 5 may also sign kids up for WIC.

Help us reach more people who may be missing out on this important nutrition resource. WIC materials are free to any service provider (including employers!) in Washington State. Visit us online to order materials, or to simply learn more about WIC eligibility.

WIC

 

Finding a WIC clinic close to you is easy! Families can text “WIC” to 96859 to find a clinic in their area. Families can also go online to the ParentHelp123 Resource Finder or call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 to learn more about WIC.

Tags: benefit programs   Breastfeeding support   Child Development   Family Health Hotline   ParentHelp123   WIC   WIC vouchers   

Policy Workshop: Breakfast After the Bell

By: Laird F. Harris, WithinReach Board President / Harris & Smith Public Affairs
Last week, WithinReach board members participated in a policy workshop to learn and discuss the important role that public policy plays in our theory of change. At the policy workshop, our board got a clear (if not scary) sense of the budget challenges that the Legislature will have to solve next year, as well as, ideas about how we can pursue our policy goals in a constrained fiscal environment. Essentially, the need to fully fund K-12 education as mandated in the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, will require increased spending of more than $3 billion. If Initiative 1351 reducing class sizes passes, as much as another $2 billion will be needed.

It is unclear how the Legislature will act to fund K-12, but it is very clear to WithinReach and its partners that hungry kids can’t learn well. WithinReach is working with partner organizations to develop and promote Breakfast After the Bell Legislation; that will require a nutritious breakfast to be offered as part of the school day in high needs schools, just like lunch. There is early bi-partisan support for this initiative that has proven to successfully increase participation in school breakfast. We will keep you posted about the measure’s progress.

In addition to our senior policy manager, Carrie Glover, and our lobbyist, Erin Dziedzic, the board heard very informative presentations from Katie Mosehauer with Washington Appleseed, and Julie Peterson with the Prevention Alliance. The board was very impressed by the willingness and ability of like-minded organizations to set priorities and agree to work together. The state faces a huge budget challenge with high risks to programs benefiting families and children. The breadth and strength of the coalitions and community partners we work with will assure that our voices are heard ….will assure that the voices of the families we serve are heard!

 

Tags: Breakfast After the Bell   Child Development   Education   food   Hungry Kids   k-12   Legislature   Nutrition   Prevention Alliance   State Budget   Washington Appleseed   Washington state   Washington State Policy   

Link Between Breastfeeding and Strong Child Development

Co-Written by WithinReach Staff:
Kirsten Leng and Alex Sosa (Breasting Promotion Program) – Kelly Smith and Keri Foster (Help Me Grow Program)
Health organizations around the world, including the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend babies receive only breast milk for at least the first six months of life. Many of us know about the various health benefits of breastfeeding, including reduced risk of asthma, fewer ear infections, less incidence of diarrhea, and reduced risk of some cancers for moms. Did you also know that there is a well documented link between breastfeeding and strong child development? In fact, some research suggests that breastfeeding benefits are 90% developmental[1]!
• Skin-to-skin contact is important for children’s brain development[2].
• Breastfeeding improves children’s cognitive development[3].
• Maternal responsiveness and attachment security are increased by breastfeeding[4].
• Breastfed children are less likely to suffer from abuse or neglect[5].
• Children who are breastfed are more accepting of new foods[6].
Why do we see these benefits? When a mother breastfeeds, it is not just about passing nutrition through the breast milk. Breastfeeding is also about comfort and nurturing; mother and baby studying and memorizing each other’s faces; speaking and singing to your baby; and building trust and non-verbal communication.
The first year of life is a time of early social, emotional, and verbal learning. Babies benefit from the intimate bonding and affection, nutrition, and early communication that happen between mom and baby. Breastfeeding provides a focused time to build this development.
At WithinReach, we focus on five topic areas of health including breastfeeding, child development, health care, food access, and immunizations. Just as breastfeeding success supports optimal child development, it also is the most nutritious, first (free) food, and a baby’s first immunization. Likewise, access to healthy foods and health insurance supports a child to have his/her best start. At WithinReach, we believe when families are supported in all of these five areas, they have the resources they need to be healthy.
To learn more, call our WithinReach Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or visit www.ParentHelp123.org

 

Tags: Bonding   brain development   Breast milk   Breastfeeding   Child Development   Family Health Hotline   Healthy   Nutrition   ParentHelp123   

How Help Me Grow Supports Washington State’s Early Learning Initiatives

Co-written with Keri Foster, Help Me Grow Family Engagement Specialist, AmeriCorps VISTA
Washington State is committed to supporting early learning for all children. We know that kindergarten readiness is an issue in our state. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), only 44% of students showed up to their first day of kindergarten ready to learn (OSPI, 2005). The Washington State Early Learning Plan identifies specific strategies that support early learning professionals to increase their quality of care and interactions with children to improve outcomes for children in school and throughout their lifespan. At WithinReach, our Help Me Grow program is supporting the state’s efforts by joining with community partners who are making early learning a focus. Screening for healthy child development is happening more and more during wellness visits at the doctors, in child care settings, and preschools. We are stepping up to help our partners increase their screening efforts and quality by helping families access community-based resources.
For example, we are partnering with the Washington Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to support primary care physicians to conduct regular screening and ensure families get connected to resources that support their children. We are also partnering with local preschools and child care sites to explore ways to support staff and parents to make screening a regular onsite activity. In preschool and child care settings we are also helping to facilitate the follow-up conversations where parents receive feedback on their child’s development. When we partner with professionals who are serving children, we can have a greater impact. Good health, strong families, and supportive learning experiences are all needed to enable children to succeed in school and life.

Kelly Smith

Bio: Kelly Smith is the new Help Me Grow Program Manager. She brings her passion for building strong families and supporting healthy kids. Before coming to WithinReach, she spent eight years working to address homelessness in Washington State by working to ensure homeless families have the resources they need to thrive. Prior to that, she worked at the YMCA at a drop-in center for teens.

For more information about the Help Me Grow program, call our WithinReach Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or visit Parenthelp123.org

 

Tags: Child Development   Developmental Screening   Help Me Grow   kindergarten ready   OSPI   School readiness   Washington Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics   Washington state   

World Breastfeeding Week 2014

By Alessandra DeMarchis, WithinReach Breastfeeding Promotion Intern

Last fall, I started the Master in Public Health program at the University of Washington with a focus on nutritional science. I have been interested in nutrition and food since before I can remember, but this fall I learned about the world’s most perfect food: breast milk. Breast milk is amazing! As a young woman, it is incredible to know that my body has the capacity to create the most nutritious food for a baby. Not only can my body produce enough of this food to sustain even twins, it also changes in composition, synchronized to the changing needs of the baby. Breast milk is a baby’s first vaccine and only food source for six months. Did I mention it is free? Breast milk is so powerful that it can actually reduce my future baby’s risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, while at the same time reducing my risk of certain cancers.

So why did the CDC Breastfeeding Report Card from 2013 show that only 76.5% of babies in the United States have ever breastfed, and a mere 49.0% of babies are breastfeeding at 6 months? Washington State is not doing much better, with only 87.9% of babies ever being breastfed and 60.2% being breastfed at 6 months. If breast milk is free and the most perfect food source for a baby, than why are so many babies receiving artificial formulas? Until the 19th century, women throughout history exclusively breastfed their babies. Why did formula become the new normal and breastfeeding an activity done in secluded places? The truth is that breastfeeding can be especially difficult when mothers do not have emotional, informational, and logistical support of their family, friends, co-workers, employers, medical providers, community, aiStock_000019515771Largend government.

World Breastfeeding Week, held every year from August 1 – 7, creates the opportunity for groups and organizations around the world to take action for raising awareness and support for breastfeeding. World Breastfeeding Week 2014 highlights the role of breastfeeding in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The eight MDGs were set in 1990 to promote sustainable development and health and eradicate poverty and hunger. Breastfeeding is linked to each of the MDGs. In terms of the first goal, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, breast milk is a cost effective way of feeding babies, packed with high quality nutrients and energy. For the goal to ensure environmental sustainability, breastfeeding creates less waste from pharmaceuticals, plastic, aluminum, as well as firewood and fossil fuels. To achieve the post-2015 development agenda, organizations around the world must acknowledge and emphasize the value of increasing and maintaining the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding.

World Breastfeeding Week is a time for organizations to take action toward a world where breastfeeding is once again the societal norm. Every child should have a fair start at life, and that means ensuring all mothers have the support they need to provide their babies with breast milk.

Click here to see how Within Reach is promoting World Breastfeeding week. To learn more about World Breastfeeding Week and this year’s theme, visit http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/.
 

Tags: Breastfeeding   Breastfeeding Promotion   Breastfeeding support   Child Development   food   Nurition   World Breastfeeding Week   

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