Helping children reach their full potential
By Deanna Adams
When her son, Jacob, was a toddler, Jean Smith (*not their real names), began noticing some things that concerned her. He demonstrated attachment issues, and was unable to express himself verbally.
Smith soon learned about Bright Beginnings and immediately enrolled her son in their Early Intervention program, a service that supports families with children from birth to age 3 with developmental delays or disabilities. To take it a step further, Smith also enrolled herself in the Parents as Teachers program, a Home Visiting program in Cuyahoga County that supports and educates parents with a child’s individual needs and helps them serve as teacher and guide.
“[Smith’s] parent educator provided her with resources, support groups, and used the Parents as Teachers curriculum to assist her,” explains Tom Wetzel, parent support department manager. A speech and language pathologist was assigned as the Early Intervention primary service provider, and provided speech therapy and other supports to the family to meet their goals.
Today, Jacob is thriving in preschool. After months of language activities and persistence, he is meeting developmental milestones and his language skills continue to improve. “He has opened up more, and is excited to see what activities and games the family would participate in each day,” Wetzel notes. “The mother believes that taking part in the Early Intervention and Parents as Teachers programs gave her an opportunity to gain knowledge of child development, delays and milestones, and gave her child a brighter future. She is extremely active and engaged in her children’s learning, growth and development,” he says, adding that her other children are also enrolled in the Parents as Teachers program.
Helping Kids Grow
We all need a little help sometimes when it comes to getting a child off to a good start in those crucial early years. Bright Beginnings and its regional partners provide services that promote the health and development of infants and toddlers so that children start school healthy and ready to learn. The organization supports families and child caregivers through the Parents as Teachers program and early intervention services in Cuyahoga County, and provides connections to the Help Me Grow system and community resources throughout Ohio.
In 2018, Bright Beginnings, formerly Help Me Grow of Cuyahoga County, was selected by the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to be the single point of entry for the Help Me Grow system of supports.
“Early intervention can address all types of developmental concerns,” says communications coordinator, Samantha Bernard. “We connect the parent to specific services and programs that a young family may need.”
Those needs can range from a child’s slow physical development, speech delays, or difficulties with social interaction among their peers. Whether you reside in Cuyahoga, Lake, Ashtabula, Geauga or Lorain counties, Help Me Grow/Bright Beginnings is just a phone call away.
“We’re proud to have recently earned a Blue Ribbon Affiliate,” says Bernard. “I believe this high quality endorsement gives parents more confidence that we’ve taken the extra measures to make sure their individual needs will be addressed and taken care of.”
Services are at no cost to families and can be home based or virtual. The main goal is to increase early childhood development and improve parenting skills by arming mothers and fathers with the knowledge and tools that support the well-being and development of young children at every stage.
Bright Beginnings' Early Intervention can also help with other issues such as housing that relate to the child’s special needs. “We had a child referred to Early Intervention (EI) in October 2020 from the Ohio Department of Health with an elevated blood lead level, due to lead paint in the home,” explains early intervention manager, Katie Parker. “Their sibling was also engaged in EI services for lead exposure as well as developmental concerns around behavior, fine motor skills, and oral motor development, including communication.”
A social worker was able to connect the family to legal aid and the city of Cleveland Health Department to address the lead concerns in the home. After attempts to work with the landlord to clean up the property didn’t work out, the social worker assisted the family with understanding their rights, and finding a new home. After three months in the new home, the children’s lead blood levels reduced closer to normal levels. The family continues to receive occupational therapist services to support the outcomes related to oral motor development and communication.
Anyone can refer a family to Help Me Grow, and once a child is determined eligible for services, a team of early intervention professionals will be ready to help, including a service coordinator from Bright Beginnings, an occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech-language pathologist or a developmental specialist.
To make a referral or connect with a professional, go to www.brightbeginningskids.org or www.helpmegrow.org to fill out the online referral form. Or simply email [email protected], call 216-930-3322 in Cuyahoga County, or 1-800-755-GROW (4769) to speak with an intake specialist.