Archive for Wednesday, October 4, 2000

Parents are first teachers

October 4, 2000

Parents as Teachers can make a difference.

Take Matthew McClellan, for instance.

An early childhood screening showed that Matthew McClellan, now 22 months old, had a slight delay in his language development. Now, because the family is involved in Parents as Teachers, Matthew receives training he needs at home.

e have a speech therapist who comes to our house once a week and works with Matthew,said Matthew mother, Bobbi McClellan.

McClellan, who is a certified teacher, but for the time being a stay-at-home mother of four children, said that through Parents as Teachers, she found the resources to have easy access to the services her son needed.

Kim Young, parent educator with the PAT program, based in Lawrence, said that what PAT is all about.

ur mission is to get every child off to the best start and the best way to do that, we believe of course, is to give support to every child first teachers their parents,Young said.

In the program, parent educators make home visits to parents of children up to three years old.

They talk to parents about what to expect as far as child development, answer parentsquestions and provide developmental screenings.

Young, who has been a parent educator for 10 years, has worked in the Tonganoxie area for the last two years, said the first three years of life are critical to a child, especially in terms of brain development.

t birth, the brain is the only organ that not fully developed,Young said. nd by age 3, 90 percent of the brain is developed.
Recent research has taught more about how the brain works.

uring the first three years, the brain develops pathways for all further learning,Young said. he pathways that aren utilized during that time are weeded out.
The early months are critical for speech development, Young said. Just because a baby unable to talk, it doesn mean he or she is unable to understand language.

efore 6 months of age, you can understand the sounds of all the languages in the world,Young said. t 6 months, you start pruning away the other sounds and you only keep the ability to hear the sounds in your native tongue.
Parent educators talk to the parents about the importance of brain development, speech and motor control during these early years.

And then there the emotional.

A former school teacher, Young was 27 when her first child was born. Even though she was accustomed to being around children, she soon learned that parenting is not always so easy.

felt really overwhelmed from switching from being in the teacher role to being in the parent role,Young said.

She recalled the first time her son threw a tantrum.

just stood there aghast, even though I have studied child development, written research papers and taken classes,Young said. ut when it your own child, your objectivity flies out the window.
The Parents as Teachers program was developed in Missouri about 15 years ago, Young said. A few years later, the program spread into Kansas.

he program is funded by each local school district,Young said. ach local school district decides if they would like to fund the program and there are matching funds at the state level.
The services are provided at no cost to the families.

The jewel of the program, Young said, is that family visits and screenings are done in the child own home.

t a more natural setting for the families with the young children,she added.

Home visits are made about once every six weeks.

Heather DeMaranville was one of about a dozen mothers who recently brought their children to a PAT play session at the library. DeMaranville said she started with PAT home visits when her daughter, Emma, now 21/2 years old, was a year old. When she became pregnant with her second child, PAT included prenatal visits. The home visits are helpful, she said.

t kind of a reassurance to know if the kids are where theye supposed to be,DeMaranville said. nd if they need extra help, it gives you a chance to get it early instead of waiting till theye in school.
Pat Walker, counselor at Tonganoxie Elementary School, agreed that the early intervention helps. After parents learn about PAT, theye usually eager to sign up, she noted.

In fact, the program is so popular the district could probably use another unit, she said.

ee got a waiting list,she said.

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