Gov. Charlie Baker and Lauren Baker, first lady of Massachusetts, visited The Professional Center for Child Development, or PCCD, last Thursday morning to meet with students, parents, and staff, and read books to the children.
Baker and his wife kicked off the event with a quiet meet and greet, where they got to engage with a few children and their parents, and learn about their disabilities. The two then moved on to different classrooms to read a variety of children’s books to students in the developmental day school.
PCCD works with children of all abilities to eliminate barriers to children’s growth and development, said Executive Director Chris Hunt. Staff at the center also work to identify early stages of disabilities in children in an effort to guide them toward long-term success.
“We’re excited the governor came out to recognize the hard work our staff does and appreciate the high quality of intervention our students receive,” said Hunt.
Baker said the visit is one he was planning to do previously, but the Sept. 13 gas disasters and subsequent recovery got in the way of the planned visit.
“This is considered to be one of the best programs of its kind in the commonwealth,” he said. “I think one of the things we certainly will be looking to do is get the increase in funding to these programs generally through the budget process. … We put about a 5 percent increase for early intervention in our budget this year.”
Baker noted he was proud that Massachusetts is one of the few states that make early intervention services available to anyone who qualifies. He was glad to have the opportunity to talk with program administrators and teachers, as well as staff members who work closely with the children living with more significant issues — both physically and cognitively — and said it was very informative.
From his engagements with staff and families at PCCD, Baker said a big topic of conversation surrounded the need to do more to identify kids who are showing early signs of autism.
On a building tour, Baker stopped in on a training session where staff members were learning about early intervention techniques. He shared with the several dozen people in attendance that he has friends who have children in their 20s living with autism.
“The thing I hear from them is you have to be willing to be relentless and patient,” he said. “It takes a very long time, but if you are relentless and you start early enough you can actually see some huge progress. … You have to be willing to accept the fact that the progress you are going to make is going to be over a long period of time.”
PCCD was one of the first early intervention centers formed in the state, according to Director of Development Lindsey Mayo. The majority of the center’s students are part of the early intervention program, which Mayo said serves about 1,600 students and tends to be mainly home-based.
The developmental day school, also part of PCCD, is housed at the center’s 32 Osgood St. location. The school provides nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists throughout the school day for students with severe disabilities who can’t attend the public school system.
“We’re so excited and honored the governor and his wife came to visit us,” said Mayo. “We’re excited to have them both come out here and meet some of our families and students, and get a sense of what we do.”