De Soto district’s Parents as Teachers readying open house

Sleep. Discipline. Toilet.

Those are three common concerns for parents of toddlers — concerns Parents as Teachers educators in the De Soto school district hope to continue helping with.

Once again the district’s Parents as Teachers organization is playing host to an open house from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mize Elementary School, 7301 Mize Road, in an effort to both introduce itself and get fellow parents acquainted.

Coordinator Jamie Fink, who has been with De Soto’s Parents as Teachers for 14 years, said the program serves as parents’ “first taste” of the school district, offering free services for children from prenatal to 3 years old.

The open house, which also boasts a Shawnee fire truck and free ice cream, will allow parents to view the area where the program’s bi-weekly playgroups are located. Parents will also meet the PAT educator assigned to their area — six educators with between four and 14 years experience visit more than 200 families each year, Fink said. Visits usually last about an hour and occur every six to eight weeks.

These visits, Fink said, are the core of the program and are designed to ensure children are on target in the areas of speech, learning and motor skills before they first find their seat in a district classroom.

Other services offered include a resource library, where materials are listed online and checked out at Mize Elementary. And the playgroups — there are both morning and evening times available — often put children in contact with others for the first time.

Fink said educators, many who arrive with bachelor’s or master’s degrees and complete a one-week training program, have helped parents identify speech and vision issues in their children in the 17 years PAT has been in the district.

If a problem is found, Fink said, the program typically refers parents to nearby agencies such as Infant-Toddler Services in Overland Park.

“We help make connections, but we are not the evaluators,” she said.

Fink said there was no cutoff date for parents to enroll, but she did add that first-time parents were given priority if there’s a waiting list.

Educators visit parents from as far away as Olathe and Eudora, Fink said. She said events like Friday’s open house are key to making more parents aware about a resource that often spreads by word of mouth.

“Families tend to hibernate in the summer,” she said. “When they don’t go out or talk to each other, they don’t know about Parents as Teachers.”

By Stephen Montemayor

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