Program adapts to continue developmental childhood care during coronavirus pandemic

The Rebound Arizona
Posted at 1:22 PM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 19:56:18-04

Those living on the Navajo Nation reservation will be back under lockdown this weekend following a spike in coronavirus cases in Arizona.

Residents have been hit hard by the pandemic, many becoming ill and over 300 deaths have been reported.

One organization, however, has not stopped their efforts to help the residents. They are working to ensure kids have activities to stay busy and to keep learning.

"We are a group of therapists. Speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists… who work as a team with the Navajo Developmental Specialist… serving families on the Navajo Nation in the early intervention program," explained Cathron Donaldson.

Donaldson is the Director of the Growing in Beauty Partnership program which is a part of Northern Arizona University's Institute for Human Development. The program works with children from birth to 3 years old in their own home to help parents, specifically within the Navajo Nation, to create specialized activities to promote development.

"Obviously with coronavirus issues, we're not going into the homes any longer," Donaldson said.

Growth does not stop, even if there is a pandemic, and that is why the group says they could not stop their care either.

"We didn't want to leave them hanging and so, Sara in particular, really had some great ideas on how we could work with these families and continue to support them," Donaldson said.

She was talking about occupational therapist Sara Clancey, who is one of their team members who found ways to go virtual.

"It took us a while to kind of understand that this wasn't a temporary adjustment that we were going to have to make," Clancey said.

She switched to phone and video calls with families and even sent out special deliveries.

"We were able to procure a grant and create activity boxes, with actual items in them, that we sent out to families in our program whose children were turning three," Clancey said.

But to these experts, the program focuses on empowering parents to utilize the tools in their own home, on a day-to-day basis, to help their children grow.

"We know that not only on the reservation, but families all throughout the state are facing some incredible challenges," Clancey said. "So just taking time each day to spend together and finding those social connections and building those relationships can help their children immensely."

NAU's IHD also offers a free program statewide for parents that think their child may be lagging in development and is under 3 years old.

For more information on that early childhood intervention program, click here.