Karen and Tyler Gallagher participate in a Kids in the Kitchen with Kristie event through Wee Panther Pals. “He loved it and learned a lot,” said Karen. “He’s going into kindergarten now.”
Charles Bradfield is headed to Princeton, and his mother believes Derby’s Parents as Teachers program was a significant factor in his success.
“He was in the program from when we first brought him home from the hospital,” said Andrea Bradfield. “He was identified early as being bright, but with some challenges. PAT gave us confidence, and tools to use as parents to help him reach developmental milestones.”
PAT – a free local program to help children prenatal to 3 years old learn, grow and develop – is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month.
“It never gets old to watch itty-bitty babies grow and develop and become real people,” said Connie McMullin, PAT coordinator. “It’s just amazing, especially prenatal, seeing two individuals change into a family of three, and watching them grow. It’s brand new every day.”
McMullin was one of the first two educators hired by Tom Snodgrass for Derby’s PAT program in 1992.
“Kids don’t come with an instruction manual,” said Snodgrass, who was then director of community education and is now director of operations for Derby Public Schools. “Our school district recognized it was good for kids, good for parents. We could head off problems with screenings and interventions before kids started school.”
Snodgrass credits McMullin’s leadership and her staff’s innovative ideas for the explosive growth of the program locally.
“PAT doesn’t tell parents how to parent,” he said. “The staff works with parents and children to give them research-based techniques to help them parent. The child starts school comfortable in the school environment, confident in what they’ve already learned.”
Snodgrass said another advantage of PAT is that mothers and fathers become comfortable with parenting, and with the school environment and school staff, as well.
“I would never have suspected that PAT would be the springboard to such wonderful and lasting friendships, but now I have seen friends put their PAT children into kindergarten and college,” said DeAnn Barr, mother of four. “The program is a fantastic way for families with young children to meet one another and foster life-long friendships. The early learning diagnostics also helped provide our family a solid start in school.”
Snodgrass said the relationship building in PAT also leads to more volunteerism in schools.
Derby’s PAT started with two employees working out of a conference room in 1992 and now serves more than 130 families with home visits, and countless more families through a wide variety of activities at Carlton Learning Center and area schools.
“I feel as excited as when I got the phone call from Tom Snodgrass that I got the job,” said McMullin. “I truly love my job. It’s a privilege to be a small part of so many families.”
PAT offers home visits for children up to three years old, developmental screenings, parent workshops and play groups.
Wee Panther Pals is a program for ages three to five.
Cookie Bookie events are interactive story times open to the public, with stories, frost-you-own cookies and activities.
All programs are voluntary, with residence in the Derby school district as the only requirement.
“It’s a terrific program,” said Barr.
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