Birth To Five program making a difference in Wicomico

Patti Adkins works with 5-month-old Natalia. Adkins is known for her "tough love" skills among the people she helps.

Patti Adkins works with 5-month-old Natalia. Adkins is known for her “tough love” skills among the people she helps.

When, after a long, busy day, Patti Adkins finally rests her head, she has a little self-assessment.

“I want to be sure I did right,” the director of the board of education’s Birth to Five program said.

The initiative, free to families, concentrates on babies and young children who have a developmental or physical disability, or the propensity for one, and offers therapy and resources.

If you ask Nathaniel Luther, Adkins has nothing to worry about. She does right every time she visits his family to check on 5-month-old Natalia. Named for her father, the baby was born with Erb’s Palsy, injury to nerves surrounding the shoulder.

“Her shoulder was paralyzed. It affects the muscles,” Adkins explained as she drove to see the baby in the family’s Martin Street home.

The infant’s mother, Kyra Chaney, was working.

“I was a little nervous when the baby came home from the hospital, but she helped a whole lot, a whole lot. She makes the whole household feel better,” Luther said about Adkins.

“She shows that tough love. I like that. She gives you that comfort level. I wouldn’t want anybody else,” he said, as Adkins held Natalia, laughed with her, checked on her shoulder movement and gathered printed information she would leave for the parents.

As Luther and Adkins sat on the floor with the baby, Adkins reminded him to continue exercising her arm. He agreed and said she also has therapy at Easter Seals and exams at Johns Hopkins, to be sure the condition didn’t have a neurological effect.

“No. There was no impact cognitively,” Adkins assured him, as she admired the baby. “Look at that head control,” she said.

Luther said Natalia, youngest of three little girls in the house, holds her bottle, rolls from her back to her stomach and scoots on the floor.

“Every time you’re playing with her talk to her because guess where she’s going to learn her language? Play with her under a blanket. Play peek-a-boo. We want that brain moving. The more she goes on her tummy, the more it stimulates her,” Adkins told Luther and he nodded.

Adkins enjoys this part of her job, the interaction, working with children, guiding parents, but it isn’t her only responsibility. She supervises special education teachers and programs up to second grade, plus oversees Birth to Five.

A board of education employee 20 years, Adkins was a classroom special education teacher and assistant principal at Bennett and Wicomico high schools, then worked in student services. She was supervisor of the infants and toddlers program, then started working at Birth to Five in 2007.

In the program are premature babies born at 24 weeks, children who have exposed to drug abuse, those with chronic lung disease or  who need a referral team for a similar reason.

“There is no typical day,” Adkins said, with a smile and sense of energy in her words.

She conducts business from two offices, on Northwood Drive and at the Board of Education’s Central Office, so in a typical hour she could be visiting a home, spending time in a school or meeting with parents.

“The important thing,” she said, “is that we work with children to make them successful. We want them to be successful wherever they are.”


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