Welcome to our inaugural issue of REACH Out! We hope you will find this information helpful and informative, and invite you to offer suggestions for topics you’d like to see covered in the future.
As I approach my fifth year anniversary with REACH, I continue to be humbled and amazed by the people with whom I work, and thankful to the families who let us into their homes and hearts to work with their infants and toddlers. Since 2014, our staff size has grown by more than 36%, bringing us to 75 clinicians and educators who serve a total of 564 families in Hampshire and Franklin Counties and the North Quabbin area. I am forever grateful to my predecessor, Darleen Corbett, who laid the groundwork for this growth through her excellent stewardship of REACH during its first 37 years.
To better accommodate our growing number of families and make us more accessible to all, we created two new REACH offices this past year. These are located at 131 King Street in Northampton and in the Haybern Building at 55 Federal Street in Greenfield.
We now offer nine weekly REACH playgroups for families throughout our service area—three in Amherst, two in Northampton, and one each in Athol, Easthampton, Greenfield, and Turners Falls. These playgroups provide opportunities for children to have fun and play with their peers while parents can observe how their child socializes with others. Now that we have space to hold a Thursday morning playgroup in our Northampton office, I get to see an excited and rambunctious group of toddlers learning so many skills together. Under the guidance of Janelle Matrow, Speech-Language Pathology Assistant; Becky Darling, Developmental Specialist; and Michal Jacob-Goldstein, Social Worker; plus two our UMass interns, these children are stretching their minds and tackling new abilities every week. It’s a joy to watch!
Michael Hutton-Woodland, PhD Director, REACH Early Intervention Program
Tom Murphy of Bogin Playscape Project built the play structure in our
new Northampton playspace.
Encouraging Your Child’s
Love of Books and Learning
January is a great month to celebrate books! Children are born learners and can gain lots of listening, interactive visual exploration, early fine motor, and so many literacy skills when parents, caregivers, grandparents, librarians, and siblings share stories and picture books! Explore literacy learning and check out these links to see how your young child connects with language through talking, reading, and fine motor actions!
Activity ideas and researched skill-building through play (some available in Spanish, too):
A quick read that highlights early literacy learning skills
Aside from online material, remember to read at least one book a day, and encourage your baby-toddler to experiment with ways to tell a story. Model and talk about the many ways you read, yourself—such as package ingredients, mail, books and magazines, and this email!
Did you know?
REACH’s service area covers 1,250 square miles; it includes 44 cities and towns and 22 school districts.
Self-Care Through the Holidays
Whether or not you’ll be celebrating a colossal variety of holidays in the next few months, the weather alone may elicit increased stress. Here are a few ways to take care of yourself so you can enjoy more of the season.
When you find yourself feeling critical, cranky, or controlling, try using the “HALT” tool. Check in with yourself:
Are you Hungry? Remember to eat nutritiously!
Are you Angry? Try a walk outdoors to calm yourself, be aware of your breathing.
Are you Lonely? Reach out to another who may also be lonely.
Are you Tired? Keep ample sleep routines - how about a nap?
Another strategy is to turn on the gratitude. Research shows that asking yourself “What am I grateful for?” builds positive pathways in our brains. It can be something as simple as loving the neighborhood holiday lights!
Did you know?
REACH stands for Rural Early Assistance to Children. It was launched in 1977 to serve children and their families in Hampshire County, Franklin County, and the North Quabbin region.
Families can self-refer to REACH simply by calling 413-665-8717. Or go online to www.servicenet.org, click Services, Child & Adolescent, REACH, and find the “Request an Assessment” button at the bottom of the page.
Meredith Iannoli, developmental specialist, has been with the REACH Early Intervention Program since 2009. Recently, she stepped into the role of Assistant Team Leader for the Franklin County/North Quabbin REACH team.
A native of the Pioneer Valley, Meredith grew up in Deerfield. She comes from a long line of teachers and has always wanted to work with children. An added inspiration was growing up with a brother who has both Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Tourette syndrome. She knew she wanted to help kids who were facing similar challenges.
Meredith began her college studies at Greenfield Community College, and then transferred to the University of Hartford where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She then went on to earn her Master’s degree in Teaching of the Hearing Impaired. Meredith applies her education and skills to helping families of children with hearing loss identify helpful resources and find the support they need. She has also helped many families begin their journey with a child who is on the autism spectrum, supporting them through transition to the public preschool after early intervention services end at age 3.
In her spare time, Meredith loves to take nature hikes with her husband and dog, attend concerts, and spend time with her close family and friends.
Please let us know what you think! If you have a question you’d like us to address, or a topic you want us to cover, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.