Cathy Estes knew that if she and her staff had specialized training and equipment they could help more children who display behavioral problems. The only question was how to gain access to that training and equipment.
The answer came in the form of two grants from the Golden Belt Community Foundation to the Early Education Center and Incredible Years Preschool. Estes is coordinator at both entities, which are owned and operated by Sunflower Diversified Services.
The first GBCF grant paid for Estes’ training in Florida. She noted that now she is qualified to train 12 staff members without the time constraints and travel expenses.
The second grant financed the purchase of a Smart Board, which along with a laptop and projector allows easy access to online material. The Smart Board is designed for digital ink, allowing for notes to be saved and easily distributed by e-mail.
"This equipment is a marvel," Estes said. "It allows for better, quicker and more valuable communications between all the parties who are helping our children overcome behavioral problems as they grow and develop."
The Early Ed Center and Incredible Years professionals are being trained in what is called the "Conscious Discipline" technique. More than 120 children during any given month will benefit, Estes said.
"Our teachers, therapists and early interventionists will benefit by knowing how to deal with problem behavior," Estes explained. "This training empowers us to know how to resolve conflicts and how to help a child develop appropriately.
"Most important," Estes continued, "we now have the capacity to prevent lasting mental health issues in the children by talking about relationships, managing emotions and exploring new ways to learn."
The coordinator noted that behavioral problems resulting from social and emotional issues are all too common.
"I suspect the general public would be amazed to know how many families are dealing with these issues in Sunflower’s service area," Estes said. "We continue to have a high rate of foster care children with many difficulties relating to attachment disorder.
"Our goal," she noted, "is to respond to conflict in ways that create optimal brain development for the child. Equally important is helping parents resolve their difficult behavioral issues without continuous conflict."
The GBCF periodically awards grants to entities in Barton, Pawnee, Rush and Stafford counties.
A state grant through the Children’s Cabinet paid for the laptop and projector. A Kansas Department of Health & Environment grant provided a flip camera for videotaping; the video can then be transferred to a DVD to allow parents to observe their interactions with their child.
Sunflower’s EEC is part of the state’s tiny-k network and provides early intervention for children with delays, birth to age 3. It relies on grants, mill levies and private donations to supply services at no charge.
Incredible Years Preschool is open to any child and tuition is charged.
For more information about early-intervention services, call 620-792-4087.