Dressed in a creative outfit of her own choosing, she initially peers cautiously at the new visitor in her home from a safe spot behind mom Tiffany’s back, then retreats out of sight after making eye contact. As with any child her age, this duck and cover soon becomes a game, which evolves to hiding behind her partially-closed bedroom door and peeking around it every now and then.
It doesn’t take long, though, for her to warm up and start chattering about her roomful of toys, bringing one after another over for inspection. “That’s a turkey,” she informs me when I point to it in her collection of plastic food and toy kitchen items, then shows me some pans that might be useful in preparing the meal to go with it. She offers a piece of plastic pizza on a plate to Tiffany, who accepts it with a broad smile, saying, “What did you make for me?” Lynn demonstrates the proper way to use a learning toy, carefully tracing the letters and numbers on the template, then moves on to stringing brightly-colored beads on a length of elastic with her mom (a craft project brought for Lynn and Tiffany to complete together by their Help Me Grow Home Visitor, Lori Butora). She brings some beads to me, and names each shape as she puts it in my hand: “That’s a butterfly. That’s a flower.” When she’s not sure of the color, she looks at me questioningly until I tell her, then repeats it. She is bright, engaging, and independent. According to her mom, the Help Me Grow program provided a great foundation for both of them in their three years of involvement together, but the positive influence on their lives began much earlier than that.
“My mom went through Help Me Grow with me when I was born,” Tiffany said. “So we already knew about it before I had Lynn. The program and my home visitors helped me become calmer, as a first-time parent, and realize I shouldn’t be too quick with my judgment, especially once I learned about the stages of development. Knowing the stages helped me to keep her on track. I understood then that Lynn had to learn at her own pace. Now she’s bathing herself, helps with laundry and picks up her own toys. She made her own peanut butter sandwich and poured herself chocolate milk one day—even though she spilled some!”
Home visitor Lori Butora saw growth and positive change in Tiffany, as well.
“She was very shy and quiet when they started with Help Me Grow,” she said. “Now she’s much more confident and at ease around other people, and in her role as a mom. They attended almost all our family events over the years, usually bringing Tiffany’s mom along, and have been such active and hardworking participants. They’re very focused on supporting Lynn’s development and celebrating her strengths; I’m confident that she’ll continue to do well. It’s just been a pleasure working with the family.”
Butora said Help Me Grow encourages positive parent-child interactions, supports families in setting and achieving individual and family goals, and prepares parents and toddlers for preschool. Tiffany and Lynn have had success in all those areas through their involvement in the program. When asked about a goal that was set and achieved while participating in Help Me Grow, Tiffany said she “cleaned out and set up Lynn’s room,” and removed unnecessary items, making it possible for Lynn to learn and explore in a safe space that is all her own. Tiffany and Lynn are well on their way to being ready for preschool, as Tiffany has learned through the support of her home visitors how to model for Lynn that learning is fun.
“Lynn is so excited to go to school! She keeps packing her lunchbox and little backpack, telling me she’s ready for school,” Tiffany said.
The Help Me Grow Home Visiting program, which is housed at and operates under the umbrella of the Huron County Board of Developmental Disabilities, provides parenting support for pregnant women and expectant fathers, and parents of newborns, infants and toddlers under the age of three and their families. The program focuses on supporting healthy pregnancies, improving parenting confidence and competence, increasing family connectedness to community and social supports and enhancing the child’s health, development and school readiness.
For more information on the program, call 419-663-4769.