Archive for Thursday, December 21, 2000

Parent organization prepares toddlers for life

December 21, 2000

When raising a child, some parents may not know what signs to look for in the early stages of development to ensure their child is progressing physically and mentally. Often, they don't know where to begin or where to turn to when questions arise. Eudora's Parents as Teachers (PAT) program gives parents the opportunity to learn more about their children and helps in the process.

Brenda Wiley was one parent who took advantage of the free services PAT had to offer. She enrolled her child in the program after moving to Eudora in 1994, also the year PAT began in Eudora.

"I think it just helps you at the time to identify milestones as they're occurring and be able to work with windows of opportunity as they open rather than just saying 'I think my child is ready to work with letters,'" Wiley said. "With that regard, I feel I was much more relaxed as a parent. I feel those are things that are sticking with us now."

PAT is designed to provide information to parents of children up to age five, to aid in early childhood development. The program suggests activities for language and intellectual growth, along with physical and social skills. The program began in Eudora and Baldwin City in 1994 by the East-Central Kansas Education Service Center. It is a nationwide program.

PAT supervisor Lisa Quackenbush said all information given is research-based. The beginning stages of a child's development are a crucial time, she said. With PAT, parents can take advantage of current science and research to help with their child's growth.

"We've known for a long time that kids are a sponge for information," Quackenbush said. "With neuroscience, we can study that a lot more."

Research has shown that children who participate in the program show progress in developmental learning, Quackenbush said. She said the key to optimizing children's learning potential is starting when they're young. One way to help teach is by talking to the child, no matter how young.

"What a lot of people are unaware of, they're actually learning language as early as six months," she said. "Children recognize many more words than they're able to use."

PAT offers home visits by certified parent educators. The educators provide ways to encourage learning, such as family gatherings with other parents to share experiences. Also, the periodic screenings are held to detect any problems early on.

Quackenbush said PAT is an excellent resource for connecting parents with health professionals. The program is funded though a state grant and additional funds through the district.

With a free program such as this readily available with no cost to the parent, Wiley highly recommends the program.

"I do have three kids and I do feel like I could have done this without any assistance, but having a knowledgeable parent educator has been a great asset. I don't want to be just a good parent. I want to be a great parent."

Anyone wanting more information on Parents as Teachers may call Quackenbush at Nottingham Elementary, 542-4920.

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