Community group focuses on Austin’s youngest residents

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Austin Coming Together’s Early Childhood Collaborative is hosting the community’s first symposium on the topic with Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Chicago) and Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) Saturday.

The event will be held in Bethel New Life’s Amberg Hall. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1140 N. Lamon Ave.

The purpose of the Early Childhood Collaborative is to build a support system for children under the age of 8, said Andrew Born, director of community planning at Austin Coming Together.

“There are a lot of resources available, but they’re not coordinated, so it’s hard for families to navigate,” said Born.

So Austin Coming Together formed the collaborative last fall to help make those connections for the community, he said.

Saturday’s symposium is the group’s first big event to bring people together. The event will offer training and professional development for teachers, childcare providers and parents.

The focus is social-emotional development – issues that manifest themselves in a child not being able to deal with adversity, behavior problems and a lack of problem solving, said Born.

The Erikson Institute, a graduate school for child development, did an assessment on the neighborhood’s early childhood development resources a few years back. Researchers kept hearing from the community that children under the age of 8 exhibited signs of trouble that can be traced to exposure to trauma, he said.

Attendees, who were asked to register by Oct. 9, will attend a general workshop, then have the option to attend one of four smaller workshops.

Durriyyah Kemp Ph.D., community educator for the University of Illinois Extension, will be teaching a workshop for teachers about social and emotional learning, and how to get the most out of a student’s academic potential.

Anne Dempster from Illinois Action for Children will be talking to teachers and childcare providers about social-emotional development for children under 5 and how to address those needs.

Colleen Whittingham from the UIC Reading Clinic will teach parents and childcare providers about the importance of conversation for young children to develop reading skills.

Christine Maxwell Ph.D., director of the new schools project at the Erikson Institute, will talk about the importance of pretend play for young children’s development.

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