Help Me Grow is Helping Children Reach Their Full Potential
By Debra Dudack
“This boy could barely walk. He was five, and still in a diaper,” said Perfetti. “They said, ‘We’ve bounced between school districts and pediatricians. Nobody can help. We don’t know what to do.’”
Perfetti referred them to Help Me Grow Western New York (Help Me Grow), where family resource coordinators connected them with medical and community supports. Now, the boy walks with assistance and is toilet independent. “His mobility has greatly increased. Their fulfillment as parents is stronger. Their confidence increased so much because of Help Me Grow,” said Perfetti.
Besides her career, Perfetti volunteers as a family partner for Help Me Grow, whose mission of advancing health, development, and school readiness resonates deeply. Doctors diagnosed her son with high-functioning autism at age eight, a diagnosis the family struggled to obtain.
“Nobody would listen because he talked and read like a baby,” said Perfetti. “Parents know, but they’re not empowered, and that’s sad. Eight is too late. Help came too late for my son.” Now, Perfetti shares Help Me Grow brochures with concerned families. She says, “I tell them to call. To see their relief has been wonderful, because they had no idea where to go.”
To date, Help Me Grow has served more than 10,000 children ages zero to five, providing families with information on developmental milestones and referrals to services. The organization has conducted about 12,000 developmental screenings and holds outreach events. “We support families to help children develop on track,” said Lynn Pullano, director of Help Me Grow. “We are a one-stop shop for families and caregivers, providing access to our partners from health care and child care, to education and human services. By working together, we ensure young children are healthier, resilient, and ready to succeed in school and life.”
Help Me Grow is one of 28 affiliates receiving technical assistance and support from the Help Me Grow National Center, based at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut. “Too often, developmental and behavioral concerns go undetected and unaddressed,” said Paul H. Dworkin, M.D., founding director of Help Me Grow National Center. “Help Me Grow bridges that gap to promote better outcomes for children.”
Every year, Help Me Grow affiliates gather with partners, physicians, and other early childhood experts at a national forum to advance early childhood systems and strategies. This year’s forum is in Buffalo in May. About 500 people will attend, including Ali Perfetti. “Think of the children who go unserved because families don’t know about providers and resources,” said Perfetti. “They need one place to connect with all resources. We must work together because the children we help today will lead us tomorrow.”
Contact Help Me Grow Western New York at http://helpmegrowny.org or call 211.
Debra Dudack is a communications professional who works with Help Me Grow National Center.