SVH: In the News — Tobacco Tax


Local children will soon reap the benefits of three significant grants Simi Valley Hospital has recently received from the California Children and Families Commission (CCFC). The grants, totaling $105,000, are a result of the state’s Proposition 10 tobacco tax.

Funded by Ventura County’s $11.7 million share of the tax proceeds, SVH’s grants will provide handicapped-accessible playground equipment for Family Connection, a “lending library” of specially adapted computers and an innovative program that helps parents assist their special-needs children with language development. There is hardly a child alive who doesn’t love to climb, swing and slide on playground equipment. However, for children who are confined to a wheelchair, most playground equipment is completely inaccessible.

With the grant from CCFC, the hospital will buy a large piece of outdoor playground equipment for Family Connection, the hospital’s pre-school and childcare center. The new equipment will accommodate wheelchair users and have ramps instead of stairs.

“Children with physical limitations will be able to enjoy the equipment and play alongside children with more typical development,” said Robin Millar, director of child development services and one of the grant writing participants. “As a result, the Family Connection will be able to enroll more children who need this type of equipment and provide a very comprehensive program for them.”

Touchy Computers

The second grant will fund the hospital’s new Computers for Kids program. The program is actually a computer lending library, where parents from the Child Development Center (CDC) can check out computers with special touch screens that eliminate the need for their child to use a keyboard or a mouse. While the child enjoys easier access to special learning software, he or she also gains skills in attention span, language development and eye-hand coordination.

Typically, families will need the equipment for only three to six months as the child gains the necessary language and learning skills. When one child is done with the equipment, it will be loaned to another family, and so forth.

Teaching the Teachers

The final grant is for an innovative new offering from Simi Valley Hospital called the Hanen Program. The premise of the program is that parents are the primary facilitators of their children’s language development.

In each 14-week program, parents are videotaped in the home as they interact with their children. Afterwards, a speech-language specialist reviews the tape with the parents and points out areas in which the parents excelled in teaching their children important principles of language development.

“The exciting part about this program is that the adult has the opportunity to analyze their own actions, with the help of the speech-language professional,” Millar said. “This is a powerful and effective way for parents to learn what they do well and where they need to improve.”

The program has been extremely successful in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, Millar said, where it has been in use for the past 25 years. Positive benefits include an increase in parents’ competence and confidence as facilitators of their children’s language acquisition. Children also benefit from an increase in the number of interactions per day with their parents and an increase in their level of social and emotional development, which gives children a tremendous boost upon entering school.

Looking Forward

Millar and others at SVH will continue to be active in Ventura County’s efforts through the California Children and Families Commission, which has additional programs scheduled to roll out in the future. The hope is, of course, that the funds raised will actually decrease, as tobacco use drops. “In the meantime, while people are still buying cigarettes, the money will be going to help our children,” Millar said.

Posted 10-5-00