AMA ESD Tot Spot playgroup makes a difference

Courtesy Photo Children and adults interact playfully during a recent AMA ESD Tot Spot program held at Alpena County Library.

ALPENA — Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District (AMA ESD) promotes a culture of educational excellence and provides high-quality programs and services for the region.

The Early On and Early Childhood programs and services provided by AMA ESD are available for children in the Alpena, Montmorency, and Alcona counties from birth to age 5.

In addition to preschool programming through the Great Start Readiness Program, which you may be familiar with, this is another program available that provides support for families. Tot Spot is an opportunity for attendees to gain support and guidance from those skilled in early childhood development. In fact, SPOT is an acronym for the providers who run the program: S for Speech Therapist, P for Physical Therapist, O for Occupational Therapist, and T for Teacher.

“The Tot Spot program is designed for developmental and socialization purposes for children in the Early On Program to interact with children in the community before they go to PreK programs,” said AMA ESD’s Early On Coordinator Sydney Prevo.

Prevo is pleased that Tot Spot has recently opened up to children in the community.

Courtesy Photo AMA ESD Early On Coordinator Sydney Prevo plays with Archer Payne, left.

“It is good for them to get out of the house, make friends, have fun, and socialize,” Prevo said. “We have a snack station, creative play stations, and physical activities, and some stations include sensory toys like magnetic cars. Children are also able to do a fun craft with special education teacher, Jennifer Osbourne.”

Early On Supervisor Ashley Peterson described many aspects of the mission that are in action at Tot Spot.

“Each Tot Spot, I observe children of all different ages and backgrounds and experiences coming through the doors with different skill sets and they learn new skills that emerge over time while working with a variety of professionals,” Peterson said. “I see children that have Individual Family Service Plans (IFSP) and Individual Educational Programs (IEP) engaging in play with new children from the area. The children who attend make new friends and benefit from interacting with their peers. Social groups should be for everyone. Everyone can benefit from a community program like this.”

Occupational Therapist Jamie McClintic has been practicing for 20 years, offering school-based therapy for area schools.

When asked to describe what she saw happening in the Tot Spot playroom, McClintic said, “I see children who came in as individuals who were timid of their environment and looking to their parents and guardians for support. And after 40 minutes into the session…now I see children playing, taking turns, and playing cards together, and it is amazing!”

Courtesy Photo Early On Supervisor Ashley Peterson poses with Archer Payne and his Aunt Kelly Bushey.

Kelly Bushey recently brought her great nephew, Archer Payne, to Tot Spot to gain more confidence before he goes to school. She watched him blossom within the group as he had fun with other children and even played a long game of catch with Physical Therapy Assistant Steven Barbeau.

When Archer’s grandma asked him what he liked most about the playgroup, he said, “I threw the ball super high and really far!”

Bushey shared what she liked most about Tot Spot. As she spoke, she choked up. ­

“When I was a little 4-year-old girl who was in great need, I had a speech impediment and could not even say my own name,” Bushey said. “Someone came alongside me and helped me at that early age. Today, I have my Ph.D., and I am a motivational speaker because of someone’s kindness and skills very much like the committed team of professionals in this very room.”

Lead Early On Service Provider Megen King, alongside Early Childhood Teacher Consultant Katie Buchinger, and Speech Pathologist Britni Luongo are also actively involved in providing an environment of meaningful social experiences and helping in the generalization of goals to new settings, and building connections with other families of those who attend.

Tot Spot meets from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Alpena County Library on Feb. 22, March 8 and 22, April 5 and 19, May 3, 17, and 31. Tot Spot runs on a drop-in schedule, which means families can stop in any time within the Tot Spot window and participate in activities, snack, and social play. For more information about Tot Spot, Early On, or their upcoming Developmental Assessment Clinic in March, contact Sydney Prevo at 989-356-1414, Ext. 222.


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