NAU’s Growing in Beauty provides engaging, in-home activities for children, families on Navajo Nation during COVID-19 pandemic

The Institute for Human Development collected activity boxes to send to nearby Native American tribes.

Even during times of COVID-19, the Growing in Beauty Partnership Program team at NAU’s Institute for Human Development (IHD) adapts and finds creative ways to support Navajo Nation families of children with developmental delays.

IHD’s Growing in Beauty Partnership Program, directed by Cathron Donaldson, is an early intervention program that works in conjunction with the Navajo Nation Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services. The project provides in-home services and support for young children with developmental delays and disabilities and their families in a culturally responsive manner. Team members are typically on the road three days per week, traveling to and around the Navajo Nation. Services focus on children and families until preschool age, when support transitions to schools and educational programs such as Head Start.

With preschools and programs closed because of COVID-19, children and families are experiencing a gap in services.

Professor Sara Clancey inspects boxes before they were sent to the Navajo Nation.
Professor Sara Clancey inspects boxes before they were sent to the Navajo Nation.

“I started thinking about the kids and families that aged-out of our program and can’t attend school right now. I wanted to be creative and help,” Sara Clancey, project director and occupational therapist, said. “I was thinking boxes of balls, art supplies, games, activity books—important developmental activities, yes, but also fun and engaging for the whole family.”

Clancey imagined curating and sending developmentally appropriate education tools and activities to help families lessen the impact of the pandemic closures.

As if on cue, the Arc of Arizona and the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council announced a COVID-19 mini-grant opportunity to quickly help persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Arizona handle the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The grant team at IHD worked quickly on Clancey’s idea.

“I’ve never worked on a grant project that moved this quickly,” Nicholas Blum, IHD team member said. “Everything, from application to award to expenditures, was moving at light speed.”

NAU Vice President of Native American Initiatives Chad Hamill succinctly embodied the spirit of the project, encouraging the team to “GO GO GO!” in an email approving the proposal.

In less than one month, Clancey’s idea was funded, materials were purchased and boxes were packed and sent.

“I am so pleased to see our staff working together to help in any way they can,” Kelly Roberts, IHD executive director, said. “Right now, folks are nervous, everyone’s working from home and optimism can be difficult, but our team remains dedicated to helping our community at large. Plus, the toys and games are really fun.”

About the Institute for Human Development

The Institute for Human Development is home to a wide range of interdisciplinary programs, efforts that support its mission of facilitating ongoing improvements in access, attitude and inclusion for people with disabilities. IHD, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017, is one of the nation’s premier centers focused on promoting full inclusion by advancing attitudes that value persons with disabilities and enhancing access to all aspects of the human experience. IHD is a dynamic, multi-faceted environment staffed with faculty and professionals representing a range of human service disciplines and offering a broad spectrum of resources and programs for both NAU students and members of the community.