New center offers support, materials on child development, behavior

Ellen Soroka, left, and Sue Meeks read over material in the new Child Behavior and Development Resource Room located in Parks Hall.

Children don’t come with a user manual. And sometimes determining if a child is developing or behaving normally can be a tough call. Even with a diagnosis, life can be difficult to manage. With the addition of a new resource center, members of the Family Navigator Program hope to give parents and caregivers a free option to turn to for questions and concerns related to a child’s development and behavior.

The new Child Behavior and Development Resource Room, part of the Family Navigator Program, provides information, support and resources on Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, behavior concerns and general child development. It’s designed to be a place where parents and caregivers can bond, vent, share and learn.

“This is an important resource for our community because parents and caregivers will be able to speak directly with a Registered Nurse and other parents,” said Sue Meeks, manager of the Family Navigator Program and developer of the Resource Room. “On top of that, they’ll have access to information from the Internet and other written material - all in one place.”

Through her work with the Family Navigator Program, Meeks realized the need for such a community resource. Parents frequently came to her with questions about a child’s idiosyncrasies. Many times, parents gained more confidence once they had a better understanding of child development.

“Parents are really receptive to this information,” Meeks said. “But they can’t always access it easily. I’m a firm believer in the quote, ‘When you know better you do better.’”

The Resource Room will continue the Family Navigator mission through its focus on education. The Family Navigator Program helps families with questions and concerns about a child’s health to negotiate our community’s resources. It’s supported by Integrating Professionals for Appalachian Children, better known as IPAC, and the Community Health Programs of the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The room will also provide families free access to Rethink Autism, an award-winning web-based curriculum that teaches the basic principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is a well-researched behavior intervention program that is effective at improving the skills and managing behavior of children - both with and without disabilities. The Rethink Autism program, normally valued at $800 for an individual, was the 2011 Winner of the Best Instructional Solution for Special Needs Students from the Software & Information Industry Association.

Additional support will be provided by Natalie Williams, a doctoral student from Ohio University’s Counselor Education and Supervision program, who will be available to help parents learn the basic principles of ABA, to model the skills demonstrated in the Rethink Autism videos and to answer questions.

The creation of the resource room, located in the childhood immunization clinic area, room 012 of Parks Hall on the Athens campus of Ohio University, was made possible by the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Community Health Programs and the Autism Society of Southeastern. Equipment for the room - a computer with high-speed Internet and printer for accessing up-to-date articles and a flat-screen TV for viewing educational videos - was provided by Project LAUNCH. Project LAUNCH, which stands for Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children's Health, is a grant program administered nationwide by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

For drop-ins, the Resource Room will be open on Friday afternoons from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. For individual questions or to discuss an assessment for your child, an appointment with a Family Navigator is recommended. If you would like to join the guided ABA classes, please contact the Family Navigator Staff, either Sue Meeks or Ellen Soroka, BSN, RN.

Sue Meeks, RN,C

(740) 593-9534

Ellen Soroka, BSN, RN

(740) 593-9780