What a sight!
You can just picture little two-year-old eyes bulging at the all colourful toys filling the sensory motor room where the Child Development Centre hosts it’s play group.
The small indoor swing set, the bright blue tunnel and mini-trampoline, the shelves of exercise balls and cupboards filled with toys would make any three year old squeal.
But the toys filling CDC’s sensory motor room isn’t just a fun place for children to play, it is a place meant for learning and development, designed to help children with developmental delays.
The Bulkley Valley CDC, based in Smithers, has 20 staff that serve communities from Granisle to Kitwanga and run programs to help young children who are at risk or show signs of developmental delay or have a diagnosed disability, said Executive Director Kerri Bassett Kluss.
The team has physiotherapists, occupational therapists, a speech and language pathologist and staff specialized in infant development and specialized in family services coordination, Kluss said.
Six staff make weekly visits to Houston, visiting families in their homes, meeting at their office in the Houston Health Centre or running the play group in the sensory motor room at Silverthorne Elementary School, said Kluss.
Ellen Anderson, infant development consultant, has been coming to Houston for over five years and runs the play group every other week for children aged 0 to 3 who have delays in their development.
After children are referred to CDC, Anderson says she meets with parents, talks about the child’s development, the parents’ goals and concerns and then looks at intervention strategies to help with those things.
One to 15 children show up for the play group session and Anderson plays with the children, doing things with play dough or finger painting or playing on all the bigger equipment designed to help children develop gross motor skills, she said.
Sometimes the group goes to the pool or outside, said Anderson, adding that they run nearly year round so summer programs are nice in the park.
And if Anderson feels it would be helpful, she refers people to other therapists in CDC or other services in the community, she said.
Jonina Cawsey, speech and language pathologist, has been coming to Houston for over 3 years, and she works with children who have trouble communicating.
Cawsey says she makes lots of home visits and gives parents suggestions about how to get their child talking more and support their child’s communication, including things to do in play and things parents can practice with their children.
“I think it’s a privilege to be invited into people’s homes and into their lives,” said Cawsey.
“And you get to be there to help them make change and that’s powerful,” she added.
Ellen says one nice thing is that children change quickly, so they really get to see changes and results in the children they are working with.
The programs are play-based and family-centred, so they are based on the needs of the child and what the parents perceive as the needs of the child, said Anderson.
“We try not to run away with we think is important, but we’re family centred, so we are really working on what the parents see as important,” said Cawsey.
The CDC programs are funded by the MInistry of Children and Family Development, and some of the school-aged therapy programs are funded through the MInistry of Health and Education, Kluss said.
She adds that the government money is not enough to run the programs and most of the equipment is bought with fund raised or grant money.
This year, the Bulkley Valley CDC is collecting pennies to fund raise for resources and equipment, an idea that came from the CDC in Whitehorse, Yukon, where they are trying to collect one million pennies.
The Bulkley Valley goal is to collect 500,000 pennies, or $5,000, and so far they have only $600, said Kluss.
Kluss says pennies are being collected for the CDC at Western Financial in the Houston mall, as well as several locations in Smithers, Hazelton and other areas CDC services.
“We appreciate the support that we’ve gotten from Houston over the years, [and how Houston has] welcomed us into the community,” said Kluss.
“We have great partners in the community… [and staff] love coming to Houston,” said Kluss.
“It’s been such a great place to work in,” she said.