Family new to the United States finds assistance in two Oakland Family Services programs


Advika grabbed pretend ice cream scoops with a plastic scooper and carefully dropped them one at a time into a numbered sundae tray as she counted “8, 9, 10.”

The 2-year-old smiled as her parents clapped at her accomplishment. About a year ago, Advika wasn’t even talking let alone counting!

With the help of Oakland Family Services’ Early On and Parents As Teachers programs, Advika is talking, walking and socializing more.

“She has made huge strides since I first walked into their home,” said Mary Rogers, parent educator with Parents As Teachers. “I’m just amazed. When I first started she was silent and not talking. She also wouldn’t leave her mom’s side and now she just sits here and plays.”

Priya Chellappan, Advika’s mother, became concerned about her child’s development when Advika was 8 months old. Although she was rolling all over the floor, she was not crawling. Priya took Advika to a pediatrician, who recommended Early On, which provides early intervention services for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or conditions that could lead to a delay.

Early On conducted an assessment and determined Advika’s gross motor and speech development were delayed. Lisa Brady, Early On service coordinator, began making visits to the family’s home and discussed different activities Priya could do with her baby to improve her development in those areas.

“Lisa told us to have her stop watching TV as much and asked us to read to Advika more and use flash cards to help with her speech,” Priya said. “We didn’t know that before. Before we had her watch TV and thought she was happy. Then through Early On, we learned that books and learning toys were better for her development.

Priya enjoys a fishing game with Advika at a playgroup.

Priya enjoys a fishing game with Advika at a playgroup.

“With her speech, her words were not clear, and she didn’t speak until she was 14 months old – she didn’t speak, not even a word. Now she started speaking. She will ask for water or crackers. She is not speaking in full sentences, but she is able to communicate.”

Through Early On, Priya learned about Parents As Teachers. The program provides a parent educator who makes home visits and involves families in activities that encourage growth in language, social and emotional development. Parents as Teachers also offers playgroups.

Priya has found Parents as Teachers very helpful, especially since she said she is still trying to understand the culture of America after having lived in India most of her life. Priya lived in Tamilnadu, India until she moved to Texas for a job as a quality engineer. There she met her husband, Gopi Krishnan, who works for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as a studio engineer. The couple moved to Lake Orion about two years ago.

“Mary gives me information that helps me understand how people live here,” she explained. “I don’t have any idea of this place. Advika was bottle fed, and I thought maybe that was why she had delays, but I was told many Americans bottle feed their babies and they are fine. It wasn’t my fault.”

During a recent visit, Advika sat on the living room floor counting and naming the colors of tiny, colorful plastic bears Mary brought for her.  As Advika played with the bears, Mary took a few moments to give Priya information about poison control and how to keep her toddler safe now that she is mobile.

“Never call medicine candy,” Mary explained. “You don’t want her to get them confused. “You want to keep medicine locked along with things like detergent or try to keep them up in a cabinet high away from where she can reach.”

Priya appreciates all of the information she receives through Parents As Teachers and keeps it all in a binder for easy reference. Between the reference materials, techniques she has learned through home visits and playgroups, Priya is feeling more confident in her abilities as a parent.

“Every week I see Mary and I talk to her like a friend and tell her this is what happened this week,” Priya said. “Mary tells me the reasons why she may be behaving the way she does. She’s my first kid so I don’t have any experience. Everything is new to me.

“I use to be stressed because I felt I should be able to do something to make her better. I think her developmental delay would be more severe if we had not gotten involved with Parents As Teachers, and me and my husband would be stressed more.”

To learn more about Early On or Parents As Teachers call (248) 858-7766 ext. 1209.