19:49:53:27 - 19:51:39:04
Lisa: Earlier you said that pediatricians could be a little territorial about some of their young patients.
Lisa: And I wondered if the pediatricians were noticing a change in the children your program was serving?
Patricia: Well as a nurse I felt, of course, that reports; that's what you have to do; going back to my charts. Well of course the doctor would have a chart on each one of his patients so I would make the teachers - I suggested- that we always have a current report so that when there were always scheduled pediatrician visits for the baby that when the mom went in that she would have a report, you know, one of our reports and that's where we thought the child was and what the child was doing. I thought that was going to be a really bonus thing and I found out afterwards that, you know, somebody in the office clipped it in the chart or threw it away; whatever they did with it. What really sold the doctors on it was the parents. The parents would say "He's doing so much better. I'm able to... he's sleeping better." And just so... yes, the doctors began to respect the program because the parents were enthusiastic about it and then we began to get referrals and that is, you know, that's the hardest thing to get the referrals you want and we began to get referrals from doctors. I still think that the reports were a good idea but I don't know that they really made a difference.
19:51:39:28 - 19:53:41:29
Lisa: So your program, you said, started in 1973. At that point the right to education had passed in 1972 and children who were starting to make their ways into public schools from their communities. What effect did that have on either the Tom Thumb program or your infant stimulation program? Did anything change because of that?
Patricia: Oh, absolutely. It was a grim time because we were very happy. The Association had fought for this [Right to Education] so it was not that the Association was disturbed that the Right to Education had been established, but it did take our Tom Thumb program - all those children who were five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve all disappeared, and we weren't getting any new ones in so...
The good thing was that the infant program, which was taking children from birth to two, had a way of growing. Suddenly, we had three and four year olds so at that time we sat down and said hmm, we can keep the centers open if the centers take the children from three to five or two to five, whatever, in that range and we still keep the home program for the babies, you know, the birth to two and that's what we did. The board looked at it. The board approved that, but no longer could we be the infant program and the Tom Thumb program so we became the First Step program. And that was a very big, very big change but a very wonderful change because I think we were probably in the forefront of having a comprehensive program from birth to five here in Chester County.
19:53:42:06 - 19:55:19:29
Lisa: Sounds like early intervention way before...
Patricia: Yes, yes and it was. It was a wonderful, it was a wonderful program to be involved with and a wonderful staff, and it meant that we were able to save the teachers jobs and, remember, these were the ladies who had been, for the most part we had ladies, in fact I don't remember that we had a male teacher, that had struggled all those years because Tom Thumb was in existence before I came on board in 1970. I think it had started back in, I think it was already nine years old; nine years a program by the time I started. So you can imagine the time and energy that people had invested in learning and working with and learning about and working with children who had disabilities, and to have lost that because we lost our population wouldn't have been a good thing. So First Step saved a lot, and also we were able to then get funding that meant that, more secure funding. Funding for non-profit agencies and programs sponsored by non-profits is always a dicey thing.
First Step was able to do that; get funding because I think it was the fact that it was a comprehensive program birth to five with both components; the home program and the center program.
19:58:45:08 - 20:01:13:14
Lisa: So Pat I'm wondering how the first step program continued to grow once it was officially launched as its own program.
Patricia: We did outreach to different health organizations like the visiting nurses and the Chester County Health Department. We went to well-baby clinics. We were able to evaluate babies there or to give in-service to the nurses so that they could do their own evaluations and then we would get referrals. We also heard from other social agencies who might have had a concern about a family or something like that that some issue in the family that might, they might be concerned about a baby. We also received requests from the Chester County Hospital, from the maternity department, to evaluate premature babies once they were discharged from the hospitals if the parents wanted to just evaluate and see how this child was developing in those areas that Denver talked about; the gross motor, that kind of thing so that parents were reassured that if their child was born prematurely they're still going to be okay and that was a great concern and then, of course, there were just people who heard about our program and would call and say, "you know my neighbors got a child could you come out and look at it?" I don't know how many babies I went out and looked at because somebody was just concerned about them and it was always so wonderful if you could say, look, here is a standardized test and here's how all kids progress and you're maybe just worried a little unnecessarily and your baby is going to be fine. Those were always the best visits perhaps but... and the other thing that we were able to do is to move totally into all areas of the community so that, particularly in the southern part of Chester County. We had some pockets of poverty that maybe no one knew about it and we were able to, with the help of the Chester County Health Department and their nurses and their outreach and going out with them, were able to provide programs to the parents there and those homes too.
20:01:14:26 - 20:02:25:01
Lisa: This was pretty radical stuff for the early seventies and a far cry from school nursing. Did you love the work?
Patricia: Oh I did. I did. I loved it so much that when we started the infant program in '73 and one of the first babies that we had, not David, but another baby and he was a little older than David. David was six months when I saw him the first time, but this little boy was like 13 months or something. When he took his first step I raced home and called my mother who was long distance in Michigan and at that time that was an expense to tell her that "Jay took his first step!" My mother said "Jay? Who is Jay?" Yes, I love the program. I love the program. I love the people in the program and I love the babies, the parents. Yes. So I was very sad when I had to leave because that's the next thing.
More Interview Chapters
- Background and Early Career
- Pat Hired as School Nurse for Chester County ARC
- Tom Thumb Program, Looking for New Ways to Support Children in the Classroom and at Home
- Isolation of Families, Need for Services
- Looking for New Service Models
- Empowering Families, Infant Stimulation Program
- YOU ARE HERE: Buy-In from the Medical Community, First Step Program
- Pat Moves to Virginia, Leaves ARC of Chester County
- Reflections on Work with Chester County ARC
About Patricia Whalen
ARC Chester County, Dental Care, Early Intervention, Families, First Step, Head Start, Physicians, Right to Education, Tom Thumb