What is Early Intervention?

The other day I answered my phone “Hello, Southwest Kids, this is Trish.” I could tell by the tone of voice that the caller was a bit irate. “My wife said you called about our son.” I explained that SW Kids was an Early Intervention Colorado program and that we get referrals from all over — hospitals, doctor’s offices, child care providers, social workers, visiting nurses and parents, whenever there may be reason to be concerned about a child’s development. “My role is to follow up with the family and see what those concerns are and help determine next steps.” “Well, what about the early intervention part?” he questioned. I went on “SW Kids provides supports and services to children from birth through their third birthday.” Research shows that by addressing concerns early, children are often able to catch up with their peers by preschool, reducing educational costs later. We also know that the brain is growing so rapidly these early years, that with intervention children do gain important skills that help them grow and develop.

He challenged “But intervention means that you intervene — come between me and my son.” I tried to assure him that we don’t ,come between a child and their parent but that we worked with families, addressing their concerns, and teaching them how to best support their child. “A Service Coordinator can come out to your home to conduct a developmental screening with you and your child. If further evaluation is warranted, she will complete intake paperwork and work with the school district to have the assessment team complete eligibility testing.

Some children are born with conditions that will automatically qualify them for Early Intervention supports and services. Others qualify based on a 25 percent delay in development. We work with the Child Find team to schedule evaluations at a time that works for the family...” “An evaluation is useful even if your child does not qualify,” I continued; “because the team will give suggestions and ideas to work on to foster your child’s development.” “And what if the test says my son has a delay — then you intervene?” I explained that early intervention services are provided in the family’s “natural environment” — where they normally spend their day, during their typical routines. A plan is written called an IFSP, Individualized Family Service Plan, that addresses what the family would like to see happen next for their child, what goals we can work on, and what supports and strategies are needed to address those goals. It is the role of the service coordinator, and Community Connections, to provide services (usually speech, occupational or physical therapy) as outlined in the plan. I assured him that we don’t provide intervention without parental consent and that their participation in the therapy sessions is expected. “Early Intervention enhances the capacity of families to meet their child’s needs. It makes the biggest difference when the caregivers learn techniques that can support a child’s development consistently and effectively, throughout the day.” I asked if I could send him more information in the mail. “Okay” he said, “but I still think Early Intervention is a stupid name.”

Early Intervention Colorado is a statewide program. Community Connections’ Early Intervention programs, Southwest Kids and San Juan Kids, serve children under the age of three in Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta, and San Juan Counties. Because babies and toddlers grow and develop very rapidly in the early years of life “Early Intervention” is very important. The changes babies and toddlers go through as they grow are made up of different skills like walking and talking. These skills, or developmental milestones, usually happen by certain ages. Because parents spend so much time with their children, they often are the first to identify a concern about development. If there are concerns or questions about how a child is growing or learning, call 565-8389. More information is also available on the Early Intervention Colorado web site at www.eicolorado.org.

Trish Peters is the referral coordinator for this area and can be reached at 565-8389. The mom to three grown children has been working in the disability arena for more than 20 years, earning her reputation as a “pushy mom” shortly after her youngest daughter was born with Down syndrome in 1989. She has worked with Southwest Kids for the past 12 years since moving to Cortez from Denver in 1998. She lives on a small farm and enjoys raising animals, tending the garden, hiking, skiing, fishing and her newest hobby, hot air ballooning.

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