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Children’s book program expands to neurodevelopmental clinic

Written By: Vicki Powers, UT Physicians | Updated: December 13, 2023
Reach Out and Read at Heights clinic featured

Sarah J. Cavenaugh, MD, reading with a patient at UT Physicians Multispecialty - The Heights. (Photo by: Logan Ball, UT Physicians)

Young patients and their families at a UTHealth Houston subspecialty clinic will soon experience the benefits of Reach Out and Read Texas, which is part of a national program that incorporates books into pediatric care for children from 6 months to 5 years old. It’s a win-win that helps not only the families at Dan L Duncan Children’s Neurodevelopmental Clinic at The Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) at UTHealth Houston but also the physicians who can use the interaction as a natural assessment of skills.

“I have seen infants and toddlers in other clinics go from not showing any interest in a book to showing interest at their next appointment,” said Ashley Dauenhauer, PNP, pediatric nurse practitioner at the clinic. “My favorite is when a preschooler tells me what book I gave them at their previous visit and requests I give them an alternative!”

The patient population at the clinic includes children diagnosed with development differences such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), spina bifida, Down syndrome, rare genetic disorders like Fragile X, hearing loss, autism spectrum disorder, and speech and language delay. The clinic is eager to use the Developmental Disabilities Literacy Promotion Guides from Reach Out and Read to reflect the unique needs of their patients and help build connections between clinicians and families. This clinic is the first to focus solely on the developmental disabilities’ curriculum guides.

Many parents say they don’t know how to read to their children with developmental disabilities, but reading is something any caregiver can participate in with their child. It just may look a little different.

“By offering this program, we are able to ‘normalize’ caregiver-child relationships, which empowers caregivers and allows them to actively participate in promoting early literacy skills and social-emotional development,” Dauenhauer said.

Beginning in January, the pediatric team will provide new books to young children and literacy advice to parents. Families served by Reach Out and Read are shown to read together more often, and their children enter school with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills.

This location is the first subspecialty clinic at UTHealth Houston to offer the Reach Out and Reach Texas program to young families. The university has been part of the national program since 1999. Reach Out and Read Texas is part of the Children’s Learning Institute at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.