Nothing cures the winter blahs like play dough.
On a chilly afternoon, 2-year-old twins Tomas and Jayden Hernandez-Anguiano were in the kitchen with their mother, Marisol Hernandez. They were taking turns helping her measure the ingredients in a play dough recipe. But it wasn't just play.
It was part of a supervised home visit from the Prevention Initiative Program with the Rockford Public Schools. The twins and their mother have been working with Andrea Lomas, an RPS 205 prevention initiative specialist, since they were younger than a year old. They were born prematurely at 32 weeks, which put them at risk for developmental delays.
Today, the twins are thriving and engaged in the world around them. "Tomas is really motor-driven. You show him something, he wants to do it," Hernandez said. Jayden is the more intellectual of the twins, she said. Once quiet and reticent, during this home visit he blurted out numbers and letters as soon as his mother drew them on a mechanical drawing toy.
"You can tell how much you work with him," Lomas said.
The first three years of a child's life are vitally important, according to Lomas. And home visits are important because they support a safe, healthy and nurturing relationship between families and children. During home visits, family members receive instruction on proper child development, interacting with their children and school readiness.
The district's Birth-to-3 Home Visiting Program follows a research-based model aligned to Illinois Early Learning Guidelines. In November, the program earned the Blue Ribbon, the highest quality rating by a national organization, Parents as Teachers.
To receive the Blue Ribbon, RPS 205 submitted an extensive quality review portfolio and provided evidence of continuous improvement including data monitoring and a rating tool to observe home visits.
In the 2018 fiscal year, the Home Visiting program served 298 children and made 2,884 home visits.
The next step for Jayden and Tomas, who turn 3 in April, is to prepare for the transition into preschool classes. The district's preschool program is open to children ages 3 to 5.
The twins' progress has been a true collaboration, Lomas said. "A good team is formed to make sure all the child's needs are met, as well as those of the family."
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