When children attend preschool, many times it’s their first experience outside of the home. So, JCFS Chicago's Integrated Pediatric Therapies (IPT) and JCC Chicago (JCC) thought that preschools might need guidance to help those who may have missed out on core developmental opportunities. The two organizations developed a pilot program to provide occupational therapy support to preschools in the community.
The collaboration was made possible by a grant from the Fund for Innovation in Health through the Jewish United Fund (JUF). IPT therapists are available once a week at Chicago area JCC preschools to consult with teachers and help shape the environment for children to be more successful.
“The therapist may also help decide if the child needs more services,” said Jennie Marble, Director of JCFS Integrated Pediatric Therapies. “Then it's a very close relationship between the occupational therapist, the social worker, and the director of the program.”
Integrated Pediatric therapists from a variety of backgrounds provide neurodevelopmental education to staff in seven JCC preschools. Topics include:
- How the experience of joy affects neurological development in young children
- When to expect children will gain new skills
- Learning strategies related to sensory integration
Parental Guidance & Workshops
The grant also funds virtual workshops for parents, which aim to provide education and support on topics like addressing challenging behavior and supporting anxiety.
“We wanted to have a place to educate the parents. We had this idea to bridge what we're doing at school with what parents can do at home, to make a more comprehensive impact on the children's lives,” said Jennie.
The hope is that the data found through this pilot will lead to ongoing funding for these services in JCC preschools. If the program continues, these organizations can continue to provide resources that improve the overall educational experience for children, teachers, and parents.