When the doors closed because of concerns of the COVID-19, the compassionate team at South Sound Parent to Parent (SSP2P) began to open new windows. “Our early intervention team is finding every which way,” says Kim Smith, M.S., FSHS, executive director, of speaking about the numerous ways the agency is connecting with families who have children with special needs. The efforts to stay in touch have stepped up dramatically with health concerns on the forefront of peoples’ minds. SSP2P has engineered new and creative virtual avenues for parents, children and family members to stayed connected with each other, with their home visitors and to have access to educational materials and therapies. These are challenging times for everyone. Families with special needs already live with noticeable levels of isolation, so SSP2P is reaching through many portals to support and encourage parents and family members.
If you are not familiar with South Sound Parent to Parent, the organization offers a rich diversity of programming for families and children who have chronic illnesses, have development delays or disabilities. Established over 30 years ago by parents and the professionals who work with them, the agency continues to identify ways to help all members of the family. Services support the extra demands of parenting and also recognize that parents can be a significant help to each other.
“Support for local families has increased,” adds Kim. For example, SSP2P offers three different support groups, Mom to Mom, Sib Shops and Dad to Dad. These monthly groups are now meeting digitally each week. SibShops are for youth from 7- to 12-years old whose sibling has a disability or developmental delay. Teen SibShops was more recently added for the 13- to 18-years-old. Sylvia Davenport, helping parent/transition coordinator, wants family members to “find their place.” Growing up already has challenges and having a special needs sibling can be even more so. Previously, these groups met to play games, do specially designed crafts and other activities. For now, these groups will meet on a virtual platform. Cameras are required to ensure the safety of all participating. SSP2P will find ways to get cameras to those who are without one. Mom to Mom and Dad to Dad will also meet via digital devices. These sessions are at no cost to attendees.
Early Intervention Team Goes Virtual Too
Kim is enthused and grateful for the responsiveness of her Early Intervention Team. The people work with children from birth to three years. Though they have temporarily suspended actual in-home visits, team members are meeting with families via Zoom, Facetime, texting, email, phone: whatever methods are most comfortable for the family. People have been receptive and enthused. Her team has become impressively innovative and well-versed virtually, and Kim imagines that some of these new ways to stay connected will remain in place even after home visits resume. The long-term positives will be the ability to reach further into rural communities, who often face even greater isolation.
Early intervention involves occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and parental coaching. Family Resources Coordinators/Home Visitors spend real time (remotely) with the parents or care givers and can literally see what the child is doing. “It is not 100 percent ideal for everyone, but it is way better than suspending program. We are excited to support families this way,” says Kim. Parents spend the greatest amount of time with their children. That is why parent coaching is the base for long term success. SSP2P is continuing to accept referrals from physicians and self-referrals. You can do it via the South Sound Parent to Parent website.
A team is putting together educational YouTube videos that will demonstrate various interactions with family members including siblings via role playing, optimal baby positioning, and other instructional topics. Visit the website for useful information and handouts.
South Sound Parent to Parent helps over 4,500 families in our communities each year, and that number continues to rise. The agency’s largest program is early intervention, but it is a life span organization, supporting all families regardless of the age of their child.
These are trying times for everyone and SSP2P is keeping pace with the abilities to support and connect families while reducing the stresses of isolation.