Emmanuel was a very shy boy. Unable to speak, he was afraid to interact with people he did not know. At home, he would often get frustrated because he could not communicate and would begin throwing things. His mother, Paulina, said “he wanted to talk so bad but I didn’t know how to help him.” Paulina enrolled in the Parent-Child Home Program at Lutheran Family Health Centers in Brooklyn, NY, hoping the Program would help Emmanuel learn to talk and prepare him for school.
During the first few visits, Emmanuel struggled with focusing and did not know how to interact with his new books and toys. Each week his early literacy specialist, Elgin, patiently engaged him and Paulina in reading, playing, and singing activities. “Even though he wasn’t verbal, we treated him like he was,” Elgin explained. She would ask him questions while they were reading and Emmanuel learned to communicate through hand gestures, babbles, and facial expressions.
Elgin and Paulina quickly discovered that Emmanuel’s favorite part of the visits was singing. Each visit started with a good morning song and ended with a goodbye song, sung both English and Spanish. Paulina began using these familiar songs as a way to help Emmanuel manage his behavior. “We sing songs as a family now,” Paulina explained, “Emmanuel will stop what he’s doing, look up and laugh. The music helps to refocus him.”
One morning as Elgin was arriving for the home visit she overhead Emmanuel crying but his cries quickly subsided after Paulina started singing the good morning song. The familiarity and positive feelings associated with the song and the home visiting routine quickly calmed him down. When Elgin went inside, she saw Emmanuel clapping, smiling, and jumping up and down.
With the help of the Lutheran Family Health Centers’ Parent-Child Home Program visits, Emmanuel and his mother have settled into a happy and comfortable routine. Instead of throwing things, Emmanuel now focuses his excess energy on laughing, dancing, and clapping. Paulina is very active in the home visits each week, and continues to read and play with Emmanuel in between the visits.
The PCHP staff at Lutheran Family Health Centers encouraged Paulina to consider speech therapy to support Emmanuel’s development and helped her to find a speech therapist. “Emmanuel’s finally starting to speak!” Paulina proudly explained. One of his favorite words is ‘bravo’ learned from all of Paulina’s praise and positive reinforcement.
“I’m really happy with the Program and the progress my son has made, and I’m so appreciative of the extra support,” says Paulina, “PCHP helped me teach my son many things, learn to listen to him, and help prepare him for the future.”
Update: Emmanuel graduated from the Program in June 2014, and he and his mom are looking forward to the next steps in his educational journey.