Their Voice: The value of early intervention
Several years ago when I started this column, I learned and wrote about early intervention and have since been a follower of the three programs we have in Utah County. Whenever I see a young child struggling with certain developmental milestones, I wonder why more parents are not taking advantage of the local service. Maybe it’s time, as the school year begins, to take another look at what early intervention is and what it can do for your child. Early Intervention is part of the federal Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C. Part C covers children from birth to age 3. The time before a child turns 3 is the critical time for their development.
Parentcenterhub.org explains that “early intervention is a system of services that helps babies and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities. Early intervention focuses on helping eligible babies and toddlers learn the basic and brand-new skills that typically develop during the first three years of life, including physical (reaching, rolling, crawling, and walking), cognitive (thinking, learning, solving problems), communication (talking, listening, understanding), social/emotional (playing, feeling secure and happy) and self-help (eating, dressing).”
Developmental delays and disabilities come in a lot of different forms. Some are easily diagnosed either during gestation or at birth, giving parents a clearer pathway to supports. Others are not evident until the child starts to miss certain developmental milestones as mentioned above. It is as soon as the parent begins to question whether or not there is a delay that they should reach out to their local early intervention program from guidance and assessments. Instead, many parents hesitate maybe from fear, denial or just lack of knowledge of this incredible resource.
Early Intervention is not a drop-off program. Instead, as a special education program for infants and toddlers, Early Intervention is conducted in the child’s natural environment — their home, where they are not only teaching the child but also the parent. Kelsey Lewis, executive director of Kids Who Count in Salem (Nebo School District) explains, “We know that learning takes place in everyday activities. We teach the parents how to look for opportunities in the daily routines that they can use to teach a variety of skills.” Lewis adds, “This process not only teaches the child but also helps the entire family build the capacity to be as functional as possible.”
In Utah County, there are three Early Intervention programs including Kids on the Move working with children in the Alpine School District, Provo Early Intervention (Easterseals) serving the Provo School District and Kids Who Count, supporting children in Nebo School District.
All three of these programs have grown and expanded since I first learned about them in 2015. Next week, I will review each a little closer and reveal some of the additional services they have included and other programs for families and siblings.
Any parents or family members who have concerns about their baby’s or toddler’s development should contact the program in their area. They may learn that their child can benefit from the program or that their child is meeting the milestones appropriately, but either way they can have peace of mind and, if necessary, the support they need to get their child off to the best start possible.
Kids Who Count serving families in Nebo School District can be called at 801-423-3000. Easterseals-Goodwill supporting Provo School District can be called at 801-852-4525. Kids on the Move supporting Alpine School District can be reached at 801-221-0649.