4 • The Beacon March 4 , 2021
Coshocton area program encourages families to act early
By Jen Jones
TheCoshoctonBeaconToday . com
e don ’ t want any child
“ Win Coshocton County to start kindergarten and have the teacher say , ‘ Why didn ’ t he / she get help before now ?’ We want everyone in Coshocton County to know what we do and how to access our services ,” said Shana Miller , Help Me Grow program manager .
Help Me Grow Early Intervention is a program that serves children from birth to age 3 who may have any type of developmental delay .
“ We want to caution people . We are not saying their child may belong in the DD world — only that some children need a little extra help with speech or motor skills , and the earlier they get that help , the easier it is for them to catch up ,” said Steve Oster ,
Jen Jones Nineteen month old Evie laughs at her mom , Marissa Henninge , while she mimics her movements . superintendent of the Coshocton County Board of Developmental Disabilities .
Help Me Grow Home Visiting is the other program the county board offers . The focus of this program is to support pregnant moms and families with children up to age 3 . Home visitors provide information to families to promote bonding and attachment , track developmental milestones and more through a curriculum called Growing Great Kids . Handouts and activities are shared with families at each visit .
Miller said , “ The purpose of Help Me Grow is to empower parents — to build their confidence in working and playing with their children . Parents are the first and best teachers for their children . We want them to be confident in saying , ‘ I am the expert on my child .’”
Help Me Grow can evaluate a child who may have a speech delay or trouble with fine or gross motor skills .
“ Even if you just want to be sure your child is where he / she should be , give us a call . We would be happy to evaluate the child and help if it is needed ,” Miller said .
Miller said families do not need a doctor to refer them to the Help Me Grow program . “ Many of our families are self-referred . They call us themselves . Word of mouth is our best referral .”
Oster agreed with this . He said he has shared Help Me Grow contact information with casual friends who just mention to him that they aren ’ t sure their child / grandchild is reaching milestones as they should be .
“ I just tell them to give Help
Me Grow a call . And I ’ m always happy to hear that the program helped a family help their child catch up ,” Oster said .
The program offers early intervention services and home visiting . While many of the visits are virtual because of COVID , therapists are still visiting families who are comfortable with them coming to their home .
“ We can show the parents of a child who may have fine motor delays how to incorporate therapy into their everyday lives . We also work with pregnant women to give them tips on bonding with their baby . And a child doesn ’ t need to have a delay for parents to call us . We have so many parent resources available and are thrilled to share that information with anyone who wants it ,” Miller said .
The Help Me Grow staff will ask parents about their concerns such as gross motor skills . “ We can give them specific ideas to work on . We do coaching and modeling of therapies so the parents can continue to work with the child when the therapists aren ’ t there ,” Miller said .
Miller and Oster both want people to understand a baby ’ s brain is still rapidly developing until the age of 3 . That is one reason why Help Me Grow is so important . “ We want to find those children who may need a little extra help as early as we can ,” Oster said .
Marissa Henninge had never heard of Help Me Grow until her daughter , Evie , was born . “ Akron Children ’ s Hospital told us to check into it because Evie was going to need some extra help .”
A therapist visits their home every other week and works on speech and physical therapy with the family .
“ It ’ s a great resource for families to utilize ,” Henninge said . “ She is creating a relationship with her therapist , and that helps her reach her milestones .”
Nineteen-month-old Evie agreed by adding , “ dada dada .”
“ We are here to show the family how to work with Evie when we aren ’ t here . Her parents work so hard with her and take her everywhere . You can see it in her social skills and her progress ,” said Tonya Fish , Help Me Grow therapist .
To spread more community awareness , Help Me Grow is kicking off a six-month campaign to share information about the program with Coshocton County . They have already had two Zoom meetings with people from all over the county such as elected officials , businesses , churches and other service agencies to get ideas
Some children need a little extra help with speech or motor skills , and the earlier they get that help , the easier it is for them to catch up .” Steve Oster
about how to get information out to the public .
“ We had a great turnout for both meetings ,” Miller said . “ We got so many wonderful ideas that we had never thought about , such as giving local photographers our information . We want Help Me Grow to be common knowledge so everyone can share it . It was suggested to ask churches to put our information into their bulletins , to post it at dance studios and Kids America , to have factories share it with their employees . I ’ m so excited by all of the ideas and can ’ t wait to get started on them .”
Oster said , “ Help Me Grow is at no cost for families . I want to be sure everyone knows that . Therapies can be very expensive , and this program will provide those needed services .”
Miller said , “ I ’ ve had parents call and say that their child ’ s doctor wants him / her to receive therapy and the family insurance wouldn ’ t pay for it . The parent is worried and stressed and calls us . It ’ s a great feeling to tell them their child can get that therapy for free through Help Me Grow . You can hear the relief in the parents ’ voice .”
The motto for Help Me Grow is “ Act early ! Don ’ t wait and see !” The earlier you get help for a child , the better off that child will be . Call Help Me Grow at 740- 732-1775 for more information . This is a central intake number , and you will talk to a person . Your information will be sent to the local office .
Jen Jones Therapist Tonya Fish shows Marissa Henninge how to use books to encourage her daughter Evie to point to pictures .