A mom holding hand puppets shows them to her 6-month-old son, while sitting on the doctor's office floor. Another woman videotapes them, taking notes on their interactions. After five minutes, they watch the video together and discuss it. The woman-a trained interventionist-gives feedback to the mother, pointing out positives as well as areas to improve. This is a Video Interaction Project (VIP) session designed to give parents tools to be more proactive in their child's development. The research-based program will provide strategic interventions for the future development of Flint children affected by lead exposure.
Developmental Behavioral Health Specialist at Hurley Children's Center, Dr. Lauren O'Connell, learned about the benefits of the VIP program (until recently only available in New York City), and wanted to bring it to Flint to help address the challenges facing children affected by the lead in water crisis. Through a grant from The Flint Kids Fund, program implementation is now underway. It will enroll 100-200 kids in 2017, with a plan to expand to 900 children in the first three years.
Enrollees in the free program attend half-hour VIP sessions on the same days as their regular well-visits at Hurley Children's Center. Curriculum presented during the 13 sessions that occur from birth to age three centers on the importance of play, reading, and routines.
"All parents want the best for their children, and Flint parents are no different. Play is a wonderful way to engage both parents and children," said Dr. O'Connell. "VIP gives parents an understanding of the types of behavior to anticipate with lead exposure and appropriate ways to engage children to promote healthy development. It increases parental confidence and enhances the relationship between parent and child, not to mention the host of other positive outcomes that VIP produces."