Wednesday, November 13, 2013

More toddlers can "Jump Into Speech" thanks to grant

More of our community's youngest children and their parents will build language skills thanks to an Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation Great Idea grant to Rec&Ed's First Steps program. While First Steps offers many types of classes that support optimal early childhood development for families of 0-5 year olds, "Jump Into Speech" is new. The 7-week class is designed for toddlers ages 15-24 months and their parents to take together. Using hands-on activities, parents learn strategies for supporting early language development. At the same time, toddlers increase their ability to communicate.

Changes to simple interactions help with language development
"We wanted to offer Jump Into Speech as part of our First Steps programming because it offers new ideas and ways to practice interacting with their children that really work," said Marj Hyde, Coordinator of First Steps. "When parents see strategies from the class working -- their child is imitating words and then spontaneously using them -- it's empowering to both the child and the parent."

Parents in the pilot class agree. One parent told us that, "I was surprised at how subtle, simple changes in your everyday interactions with your toddler can make a BIG impact on their speech...I know [my son] is really benefiting because his older brother recently mentioned, 'Wow! He's really talking a lot more!'"

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation funding will pay for critical non-salary aspects of running Jump Into Speech, such as equipment and supplies that are specific to the class. These items will contribute to the sustainability of the class since they can be used over time in more classes.

This grant is just one example of how Rec&Ed's First Steps division is addressing the loss of about $50,000 in annual state funding. Over the past few months, First Steps staff, a dedicated group of First Steps parents and I have worked to identify a variety of strategies to help fill the gap. Look for a future blog about these ideas and how you can help.

For more information, visit the First Steps-Ann Arbor website or email Marj Hyde.

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