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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Friday Health Focus: Helping Children Thrive

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Friday, April 14, 2006

Mackenzie, three-months old [Photo by Sue Bush]
Play groups and parent groups, programs for infants, toddlers, and pre-school-age children, outreach initiatives and newborn services; there can be little doubt that children living in the Berkshires or Southern Vermont are the focus of numerous family-oriented organizations.

And for the most part, parents and children benefit greatly from the diverse range of services, said Kathy Catelotti, a parent/child nurse who works with the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice Care of the Northern Berkshires.

Catelotti has worked with mothers and babies for four decades. She worked as a maternity nurse at the North Adams Regional Hospital for 30 years before joining the VNA about 10 years ago, she said. Catelotti's current duties include visiting new mothers within a few days of discharge from the hospital.

Offering Reassurance Right From The Start

"I have a fun job," she said during an telephone interview earlier this week. "Every mother in this [Northern Berkshire] area is offered a mother-child visit and the referral comes right from the hospital maternity ward."


Jacob at seven months old [Photo by Sue Bush]
And, she believes, the job is a a necessary endeavor; once a new mother leaves the security of a hospital room and arrives home with her child, confidence can plummet. First-time mothers may doubt their mothering skills and women who have other children at home may feel overwhelmed and overworked.

"I've had people open the door and burst into tears," Catelotti said. "Most of the time, what people need is some reassurance."

Catelotti is qualified to discuss breast-feeding concerns and offer breast-feeding advice and assistance. She is able to offer guidance to mothers who opt to bottle-feed their babies as well.

"I can help with latching, with positioning, and believe it or not, people can have problems with bottle-feeding," she said. "Mothers can be experiencing sore bottoms, sore breasts, or have leaking issues. I always ask the mom how she's feeling and if she has any concerns. I do make sure that everything is going OK with their health. We talk about how to hold a baby, and being certain that the baby is sleeping on its' back."

Many Resources

Catelotti shares information about available parent and child resources.

"Part of my job is making certain that people know about all these things," she said.

Associating with a parenting organization can ease a transition into parenting, Catelotti said.

"Older women who worked prior to having their baby may suddenly find themselves isolated from that workplace social circle," she said. "Younger mothers, especially the mothers who are quite young, may find that their friends aren't interested in hanging out with them anymore. Not everyone really knows how to spend quality time with their children. These organizations are addressing the issue of people being left with themselves."

The "Net"

Amy Hall is the program director for the Northern Berkshire Family Net program which operates from the Haskins Community Center on State Street in North Adams. The group offers a broad range of programs and services, with an emphasis on family.

"Our parents are very involved with our programs," Hall said during a telephone interview.

The "net" serves children from birth to age 7. Parent-child play groups are offered in North Adams, Adams, Williamstown, and Cheshire. There are parent support groups and new parent support groups for parents of children age six months or younger. During the summer months, program staff members travel from playground to playground in a van filled with toys, Hall said.

Events and activities are scheduled on a regular basis. A "Touch-A-Truck" event is scheduled for April 19 from 10 a.m. to noon at the center. The event has proven very popular; in 2005, over 300 people participated in the event, said Hall.

Matthew, who will be five years old in May [Photo by Sue Bush]


"There will be diggers, school busses,police cars, fire trucks, and the kids will be able to get into some of the vehicles," she said.

April Agenda

Also on April 19, child self-esteem expert Scott Noyes is set to deliver an "Encouraging Self-Esteem In Your Child" parent education workshop at the center.

Noyes is expected to begin the session at 6 p.m., and the presentation is slated to conclude at 8 p.m., Hall said. Pre-registration is necessary for all evening events hosted by the group because on-site childcare is provided.

"[Noyes] is a big draw," Hall said. "Parents love him."

"Media Smarts," a presentation focused on the media's impact on children, will be offered on April 27 at the center beginning at 6 p.m..

The NBFN hosts a clothing exchange for children up to size 7, Hall said. The exchange operates as a walk in service Mon.-Thurs, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Hall said.

"We have a large walk-in closet kind of thing and people can just come down and get some clothes or come down and drop off clothes [for the exchange]."

Program participation is consistent, said Hall.

As of February, over 180 families had participated in group-sponsored programs, and in March, 468 newsletters were distributed, Hall said.

"Some parents come to many of the things we offer, and some parents come to almost everything," she said. "One of the things we are trying to do is reduce feelings of isolation."

Milestones


Seven-year-old Kaitlynn [Photo by Sue Bush]
From birth to age 5, children develop a tremendous number of social, physical, and cognitive skills. Developmental "milestones" can be cause for celebration or concern. The Center for Disease Prevention and Control has posted a list of developmental milestones by age with an accompanying caution that the milestones and ages are meant as a general indicator.

"Babies develop at their own pace, so it's impossible to tell exactly when your child will learn a given skill," according to the CDC information.

By the time a baby is approaching four months old, he or she may display a "social smile," may be interacting at play with others, and may imitate facial expressions. Babies may push down using their legs when placed on a firm surface and may "swipe" at dangling objects with their hands.

Parents may want to consult a pediatrician if a three-month-old baby seems unresponsive to loud noises, has not "discovered" their hands, does not smile, or does not grasp and hold objects, according to the CDC information.

At age one, a child should begin imitating others while at play and should be able to reach a sitting position without assistance, according to the CDC information. A year-old child should be able to respond to simple verbal commands. Movement may include crawling, creeping on hands and knees, pulling up to a standing position, walking while holding on to furniture, or taking two to three independent steps, according to CDC information.

Intervention may be needed if a one-year-old child is not crawling, seems unable to stand when supported, and does not point to objects or pictures, according to the information.

Anytime a parent suspects a health or developmental issue or problem, a pediatrican should be contacted, no matter what the child's age or milestone status.

Berkshire region parent-child resource groups include Child Care of the Berkshires, 413-663-6593 [North Adams] or 413-447-7554 [Pittsfield], Northern Berkshire Family Net, www.familynetfun.com 413-664-4821, Healthy Families, 413-664-6104 [North Adams], 413-445-4324 [Pittsfield], Berkshire Health Systems "Operation Better Start," 413-445-9243, Family Support Network of South Berkshire, 413-528-0721, Early Intervention Program, 413-664-4541 and First Steps, 413-528-9311.

Southern Vermont groups include the Bennington County Child Care Association, 802-447-3778, Family, Infant, and Toddler program, 802-447-2768, The Learning Tree, 802-447-5045 or 802-442-6077, Molly Stark Family Center, 802-447-7764, and Success By Six, 802-447-6413.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or 802-823-9367.
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