TRURO – Alan MacPherson watches from a safe distance as his preschool-aged daughter Bailey explores and indoor playground making new friends.
For the past six weeks, the pair has joined in the fun at the Institute for Human Services Education (IHSE) Early Intervention playgroup; an activity MacPherson said is already having a positive impact on his daughter’s development.
“She’s getting to play with other children and she’s starting to talk more and learn more words,” he said.
Bailey has both speech and hearing development issues making communication a challenge and was referred to the IHSE program by specialists.
The MacPherson’s were one of about four families at the IHSE offices at 60 Lorne St., Truro, on Feb. 21 to participate in the program.
“It is for children that are identified to have developmental differences,” said Jackie Allen, one of four early interventionists with IHSE.
The early intervention program assists children – birth to school age – who have an identified special need or are at risk for developing one.
Early interventionists conduct home visits along with hosting programs at their office to work with parents and guardians to help their children gain skills.
The playgroup was launched in January and has attracted several families during the past six weeks.
“We bring activities that are specific for learning,” said Reta Cream, an early interventionist. “Maybe some things people take for granted that children know, that’s what we work with them to learn.”
She named concepts like open and close or near and far as examples.
The program is 80 per cent funded by the Department of Community Services and 20 per cent from the IHSE. It offers support to children in Colchester County and part of East Hants.
Activities at playgroup allow children to practice development skills from soft motor skills to speech and high motor skills, along with providing an opportunity to socialize with their peers.
“Children learn through play and we’ll follow their lead,” said Allen. “ We go to them and encourage their parents as well to stretch their learning.
“Ultimately we are working on all these areas to get children ready to enter the school system.”
Children can be referred to the program with parental consent and is open to any children currently on the institute’s waiting list.
Lisa Hatfield was at the playgroup with her three-year-old daughter Hayley and 23-month-old son Dawson. She said the program is a wonderful way for her son, who uses a feeding tube, to meet children his own age and engage in play in a safe environment.
“It’s great because the kids need it and I need to get out to socialize with adults,” she said.
Chance Clarke, 3, spent his time exploring everything the playgroup had to offer. Pretending to cook food, climbing on an indoor slide, rolling balls and pressing buttons on toys that make happy noises.
His mom Kathy said the group has helped him overcome one of his primary developmental weaknesses, interacting with other children.
“Here he gets to interact and connect with other people,” she said. “I like how big the space is and I like how everyone is here to help when you need it.”
For more information about the program, call the IHSE office at 893-3342.
At a glance:
What: A playgroup
Who: IHSE Early Intervention
Where: 60 Lorne Street, in the multi-purpose room
When: Thursday mornings from 9 to 11 a.m. (snack will be provided)
Details: The playgroup is open to families in the early intervention program and families currently on the waiting list. Parents must accompany children.
How: Drop-ins are welcome, however if possible call 893-3342 to register.