Helping Our Youngest Start Strong
Meet Phoebe - born with Down syndrome, Phoebe’s first interventions began at 6 weeks old. Now at age 4, she receives special education and speech, occupational, and physical therapy, all delivered by the IU13 Early Intervention team who comes to “her” childcare center on a routine basis to deliver services.
Phoebe is thriving in her full-day, typical environment. She makes pretend meals with her classmates and is “a sign maniac” when it comes to communicating, says her mother, Kim Roe. Early Intervention specialists advise the classroom teachers working with Phoebe on how to support children with Down syndrome. They also helped Phoebe’s parents understand how to work with and advocate for their child.
Each year across the Commonwealth approximately 50,000 preschool children (ages 3-5 years) are served through the Preschool Early Intervention (EI) program. IU13 has the privilege of serving Phoebe and 3,000+ of these children in Lancaster and Lebanon counties, and supporting their families as they prepare their child for kindergarten.
Early Intervention is designed to serve families with children who have developmental needs. It is built upon the natural learning that occurs in those first few years. The program is designed to promote collaboration among parents, service providers, and others involved in a child’s life.
“The intensity and timeliness of Early Intervention prepares Phoebe and all children with Down syndrome for meaningful lives,” says Roe. “They know what it’s like to work hard. They have that extra help they need. It makes all the difference.”
The IU13 Early Intervention program provides a full continuum of special education services such as: speech and language, vision, hearing, nursing, social work, behavior consultation, and special education instruction. These services may be offered in a child’s home, community location/classroom, or childcare center, such as the case with Phoebe who began receiving services at home while she was still an infant, but now receives services at her traditional childcare center. Her parents explained that, as an infant, home was a more comfortable setting for Phoebe. It allowed to her focus on the lesson rather than the “strange” setting. As Phoebe progressed, became older, and entered a preschool setting, the location of her sessions with the IU13 EI staff changed.
“Early Intervention is a program near and dear to my heart,” stated Ann Rieker, Supervisor of Early Intervention for IU13. “Parents come to us looking for guidance and support about their child. We are here to help them determine what supports are needed. We want the best for the child, the family…and it’s wonderful when we can make that happen.”
Families, teachers, and caregivers work collaboratively as IEP (Individual Education Plan) teams. They plan activities, review progress, and discuss strategies. The approach yields consistent and successful intervention, no matter what setting the child is in.
“The EI program has a strong emphasis on high-quality professional development for all staff. Our professionals are knowledgeable about effective strategies, resulting in a stronger capacity to serve eligible children,” stated Rieker. “We pride ourselves on developing individual programming for each child’s unique situation. Our staff is truly dedicated to supporting children and empowering families.” Phoebe’s success is a shining example of this important work!
Learn more about Phoebe’s journey through this video:
To learn about having a Lancaster or Lebanon County child evaluated for speech, language, or other developmental needs, please call 1-888-745-0771.
Editor's Note: Thank you to the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) and Diane McCormick for contributing to this article.