When children with developmental or behavioral problems get the services they need, they do better in school. Detecting these problems early and getting connected to community services leads to better outcomes in kids’ education, health and social life.
However, families often have difficulty recognizing the early signs of developmental or behavioral concerns. So do their doctors and teachers. Even when families do identify their child’s needs, finding programs to meet those needs can be confusing and time-consuming.
Help Me Grow Western New York is a free resource connecting families in Erie and Niagara counties to community resources and child development information.
The program offers families:
- Information on child development and parenting.
- Referrals to community resources through the Western New York 2-1-1 line, based on a comprehensive database of early intervention agencies, family therapy, literacy support, mentoring, tutoring, parenting classes, recreational activities and more.
- Questionnaires to help parents discover their child’s strengths and uncover any potential areas of concern, using the same Ages and Stages Questionnaire used by many health care providers to assess motor skills, communication, problem solving, and social-emotional skills in children up to age 5½.
Based on a national model with affiliates in 28 states, we first launched Help Me Grow in western New York as a pilot project in 2008 with six pediatric primary care practices conducting developmental screenings of children from birth through age five.
The model is simple, but powerful for families looking for help. With support from the Health Foundation and other partners, Help Me Grow WNY continues to spread across the region and is setting the stage for spreading across New York.
To date, more than 4,500 Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) developmental screenings have been completed, which includes following up with parents to share results and make referrals as appropriate.
Help Me Grow has also coordinated trainings by Niagara University and Child Care Resource Network to assist child care providers and parents in how to complete the ASQ.
The Buffalo Public Schools are currently encouraging screening of every child in their Universal Pre-K program, (more than 1,500 students) and other school districts in western New York are interested in Help Me Grow, as are Catholic Charities and Head Starts. Community support for Help Me Grow continues to build.