Jennifer Forbes of Larned knew her daughter’s anxiety around other people was limiting the toddler’s opportunities to develop and just enjoy being a kid.
Jennifer also believed that without early intervention, 3-year-old Piper’s painful shyness would have life-long consequences.
Sunflower Diversified Services has provided this intervention through its Early Education Center (EEC). And now Piper is interacting up a storm.
“Piper was extremely shy - even with neighbors and extended family,” Jennifer said. “The larger the group, the more terrified she became. And if the group included strangers, Piper was just mortified.”
After qualifying for EEC services, Piper visited twice a month with Chelsea Alexander, EEC early childhood special education teacher. They spent time together at the Larned Parents as Teachers playgroup.
“Chelsea helped Piper interact with peers and adults,” Jennifer explained. “She helped her overcome extreme shyness and we are so grateful. We knew Piper’s shyness would interfere with her ability to learn and enjoy school. Intervention was necessary to reach her full potential.”
When Jennifer looks back to a year ago, she recalls that Piper had severe separation anxiety when she was dropped off at the church nursery. Since she didn’t attend daycare, Piper’s lack of experience with people outside of immediate family contributed to her social problems, Jennifer said.
“She was just so uncomfortable and we knew she needed guidance to develop into a confident young lady,” Jennifer noted. “Her shyness would impede self-esteem, academic performance and quality of life.
“We needed a third party to help her transition into a socially competent individual,” Jennifer added. “Her father and I were a safe haven, and she was scared to put any distance between herself and us.”
Piper’s life today is a whole new story.
She plays well with others, initiates conversations and interacts with children and adults, Jennifer said, noting Piper is still a bit shy.
“We are elated with her progress,” Jennifer said. “And we cannot say enough good things about Chelsea who has been an absolutely phenomenal teacher.
“Without this intervention,” Jennifer elaborated, “Piper would have struggled to make friends and dreaded school. She would have been a self-conscious, anxious and sad little girl. Now she enjoys going to school, play-dates and birthday parties.”
J.D. Forbes, Piper’s dad, emphasized that the teacher made all the difference. “Sunflower’s early intervention program is good and Chelsea Alexander made it great,” J.D. said. “It is the people who work with children and families that make Sunflower an incredible, invaluable resource.”
Alexander explained that her first goal was to gain Piper’s trust.
“I began interacting with Piper by coming down to her eye level,” Alexander said. “This helped her come to me and begin playing with toys. She started to feel safe and would join me in the activity.
“I also demonstrated how to interact with Piper’s peers while she played along side me,” Alexander continued. “She observed and joined in when I invited her to do so. But we couldn’t have done this without her family. They are a blessing.”
Since Piper is just turning 3, she is aging out of the EEC. If she needs further guidance, Piper will rely on the Tri-County Preschool, “which is also an amazing entity,” Jennifer said. “We are tickled that Piper is able to attend.”
The Forbes family was steered to Sunflower with the assistance of Val Marshall at Parents as Teachers, and Cradles and Crayons, which offers developmental screenings for young children.
The EEC, 1312 Patton, Great Bend, is part of the tiny-k infant/toddler program in Kansas. The non-profit agency serves Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. It is funded in part by tax revenue but relies on private donations; services are free.