Project Prints gone, First Steps takes over

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Wyant family walked away with more answers and less worry after Wednesday night's Project Prints meeting.

"They did a very good job of really telling everybody what was going on and where the situation is where it's at," says David Wyant, parent.

David and Julie Wyant's son, Miles, has down syndrome. Miles has been with the program for seven months.  His parents say the 20-month-old has made significant growth in his development since he started the program.

It's a feeling to which Donna Brewer can relate. Nearly 11 years ago, her daughter Hanna was a Project Prints kids.  Though Brewer realizes there will be changes under First Steps, she says parents should see it as opportunity to help build another program.

"It's not an end to the program; it's a transition.  We experienced a transition in America yesterday, and I think this is just a transition on a local level," says Brewer.

Under the First Steps program, centers which hosted family programming and activities will likely close.  Also, the program will need more funding to provide in-home therapy as frequently as Project Prints once did.

But, First Steps says it is working to secure more funding and create more partnerships, one of which includes working with Headstart to get more teachers connected to families.

"They are a natural partner for us in that area, but again it's something that has to evolve and something that's going to require some parent support to create these new partnerships," says Michael Cruthird, District Coordinator, First Steps.

At the meeting, First Steps representatives said it's also going to take creative thinking and help from parents to redefine how early child development services are carried out in South Mississippi.  They also encouraged parents to stay on top of what's going on at the state and federal level when it comes to funding for their children.  They're steps parent Stacy Schutz says she's already taking to get her son the best start in life.

"It's my job as a parent and as an advocate to do what is necessary for my son, and it's not just for him; it's for the other kids like him."

The Gulf Coast Down Syndrome Group will hold a meeting Saturday at 4:30 at the St. Paul United Methodist Church in Ocean Springs at the corner of Highway 90 and 57.