Jeff Johnson, executive director of the Childrens’ Center of Maine, spoke to the GFWC Skowhegan Woman’s Club at its May meeting. Submitted photo

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs Skowhegan Woman’s Club met May 11 at the Heritage House Restaurant and via Zoom to hear speaker Jeff Johnson.

Johnson is executive director of the Children’s Centers of Maine, with facilities in Waterville, Farmington, Augusta and Skowhegan, according to a news release from the club.

Johnson gave an overview of the programs serving children with developmental disabilities, ranging from six weeks to six years, and their families. In an explanation of brain and childhood development, he stressed that those born with disabilities, including speech and language deficits, autism and cerebral palsy can (if identified through early screening, intervention and preschool education) improve, be better prepared for public school and enjoy an improved quality of life.

Years ago, these children were housed in state institutions or lived in group homes away from their families and dependent on others. In the last 15 years of research, there have been many improvements in early childhood intervention and education. Every child is unique, and it is important to realize that people do not know any child’s full potential. Physical, speech and occupational therapy, interactions with peers through creative play and recreation and learning under the direction of trained clinicians and educators who focus on a strength-based model, in conjunction with parent education and support, can change and enrich the lives of these children and their families.

To learn more about the Children’s Centers of Maine, visit childrensctr.org. To make a referral or to ask questions, call Augusta’s main office of the Children’s Center to talk to the intake coordinator at 800-894-6264 or 207-626-3497.

For the last two years, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Maine State President’s Project has centered around supporting children and families. To support this mission, the Skowhegan Woman’s Club has donated money to Pine Tree Camp and children’s clothing to local elementary schools, and continued its donations of baby and toddler clothing to Newborns in Need. The club is also donating to the Good Will-Hinckley’s Summer Campership Program and to the Skowhegan Children’s Center.

In June, the club plans to announce the recipient of this year’s Skowhegan Woman’s Club Annual Scholarship to a graduating senior seeking higher education.

Area women, not only residents of Skowhegan, who are interested in learning more and attending meetings (either in-person or via Zoom) can call Billie Sherman at 207-474-5052 or Mary Cayford at 207-474-9820.

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