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ICC project focuses on developmental milestones, early intervention
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McKinley Phillips, her son, Wylder, and Cathy Estes showcase some materials in a developmental-milestone information packet. Phillips is a Sunflower Diversified Services early childhood special education teacher and Estes is Sunflowers childrens services coordinator. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

        While about a dozen local and area non-profit entities are involved in a new project, they each want the same thing – for young children to be screened early for developmental issues.

          The project will entail handing out packets of information to public-health facilities and agencies that care for young children. The packets will then be distributed to parents who will learn about the early signs of potential problems.

          This effort is being organized in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) campaign called “Learn the Signs. Act Early.”

          “We want to reach out across central Kansas to educate parents,” said Cathy Estes, children’s services coordinator at Sunflower Diversified Services. “Not all parents are aware of some developmental milestones until their children lag further behind their peers.”

This is why Sunflower has teamed up with its local Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC) partners.

          Sunflower owns and operates its Early Education Center and Incredible Years Preschool, both at 1312 Patton in Great Bend. Its ICC partners include Parents As Teachers, special-education preschools, health departments, the Center for Counseling & Consultation, Barton Community College and Connecting The Pieces Autism Support Group.

          “The welfare of children is our utmost concern and it takes this level of teamwork to reach the families who need us,” Estes said. “We can be so much more effective collectively; one agency cannot do it all.”

          Each ICC member has specific talents and requirements but the bottom line is to provide an avenue to early intervention.

          “We all work with each other every day,” Estes commented. “For example, a child in Sunflower’s early intervention program may be referred to a Parents As Teachers play group. The extra socialization with peers is crucial.”

The ICC’s information packets will include a refrigerator magnet with a resource directory. David Edgerton of La Crosse designed it.

“David and his wife, Katrina, have been a big help to us,” Estes said, noting they have a child in early intervention services. “David has an eye for the graphic arts and the technical know-how to bring them to life.”

 Other items in the packets include written materials about developmental milestones and a pre-literacy children’s book. Packets will be distributed in February, March and April.

          “These easy-to-understand materials are invaluable,” Estes said. “For example, pre-literacy starts the process for reading and writing, and identifying sounds and speech. Infants learn to look at the pictures as you talk about them.

          “By 4 months, they should be babbling and following your finger as you point,” she continued. “They start smiling and laughing at the sounds you are making. And by 6 months, babies start making vowel sounds. This interaction leads to identification of words.”

          McKinley Phillips, Sunflower early childhood special education teacher, knows the importance of milestones not just in her professional life; she is now mother to 6-month-old Wylder.

          “Wylder is doing just great but I still understand that screening children as early and often as possible is very important,” Phillips said. “Once a child develops a delay, there can be a snowball effect that places the child further behind. Intervention services can prevent this.

          “Sunflower’s free developmental screenings by our professional team are extremely helpful to any parent,” she added. ”We can suggest activities, strategies and resources for the child’s successful development.”

          The packet materials cost about $2,600. Kanye Cross Autism Awareness donated $750 and Sunflower has kicked in $1,400. BCC’s Early Childhood Department purchased $500 worth of pre-literacy books.

          Sunflower’s Early Ed Center is part of the tiny-k infant/toddler program in Kansas. The non-profit agency’s service area includes Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. Although it is funded in part by tax revenue, it relies on private donations; services are free to families.