Podcast: Help Me Grow with Founder Dr. Paul Dworkin
During the Help Me Grow National Forum, WithinReach’s (Help Me Grow Washington) Chief Strategy Officer, Sharon Beaudoin, sits down with Dr. Paul Dworkin to discuss the Help Me Grow model and importance of its four key components and the work of Help Me Grow Washington. Dr. Dworkin is Executive Vice President for Community Child Health at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Founding Director of the Help Me Grow National Center, and professor of pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.
Podcast: Child Development Screening Part Two
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!
Wave your flag of inclusion with Family Support Coordinator Jen!
Teen parents connect in GRADS
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.
Have a happy, inclusive holiday season
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!
Community power in Central Washington
“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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Policy Workshop: Breakfast After the Bell
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!
Link Between Breastfeeding and Strong Child Development
• Breastfeeding improves children’s cognitive development.
• Maternal responsiveness and attachment security are increased by breastfeeding.
• Breastfed children are less likely to suffer from abuse or neglect.
• Children who are breastfed are more accepting of new foods.
How Help Me Grow Supports Washington State’s Early Learning Initiatives
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