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From the Editor
Monroe County has declared September to be Early Intervention (EI) Awareness Month. Starbridge, along with many other agencies, is an EI Awareness Month Community Partner. This issue of Bridges is devoted to Early Intervention, the services and supports that are available to babies and young children with suspected developmental delays and their families.

Why is EI so important? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that “the connections in a baby’s brain are most adaptable in the first three years of life. These connections, also called ‘neural circuits’, are the foundation for learning, behavior, and health. Over time, these connections become harder to change.”

My family’s experience with EI was very positive and consisted largely of therapeutic play with a purpose. Let’s explore what EI could look like for your family. 

Happy autumn and best to you and yours,
Maria Schaertel
What is Early Intervention?
Early Intervention…

  • May include speech therapy, physical therapy, and other types of services based on the needs of the child and family.

  • Can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills and overcome challenges and can increase success in school and life.

  • Programs are available in every state and territory. These publicly funded programs provide services for free or at reduced cost for any child who is eligible.

Does my child need Early Intervention?
Early Intervention helps young children (birth to 3 years) who are not learning, playing, growing, talking or walking like other children their age. If you notice your child is not doing the following by the age listed, call your baby’s doctor for a developmental assessment:

  • Crawling by 10 months
  • Waving, pointing, or imitating gestures by 12 months
  • Walking by 18 months
  • Manipulating ring stacks, form boards, and nesting cups by 18 months
  • Saying and understanding at least 50 words by 24 months

For a more complete list of milestones, please see Developmental Milestones Checklists for Infants and Young Children
Questions to ask your baby's doctor
  • What techniques work best for potty-training?

  • How much of my child’s speech should I be able to understand?

  • Is my child’s development and growth on track and appropriate for their age?

  • What types of vaccinations should my child receive, and when?

  • How can I help my child get good, affordable nutrition?

  • How much sleep should my child be getting on a regular basis?

  • How much TV or device time is right for my child?

  • How do I know if my child has an ear infection?

  • When is it an emergency, and do you have after hours or urgent care available?

IFSP: The heart of Early Intervention
The Early Intervention process begins when someone (parent, family member, childcare provider, doctor) makes a referral for an initial evaluation. If your child is determined to be eligible for services, then the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is developed.

The IFSP is a plan developed to record the family’s goals for their child. It lists the Early Intervention services that will best help reach those goals and describes when, where, and how those services will be delivered. It will be a map to guide you and the professionals who support your child in these early years.

To prepare for the IFSP meeting, a care manager will contact you about your concerns and who you would like to attend the meeting, what the agenda will be, and the meeting time and location. The care manager will also make arrangements for the meeting and notify all team members in writing.

Besides you, the team must include the care manager and at least one person who was involved in doing the evaluation. You may invite other people to the meeting who know your child or could help decide what services would help him or her. They may include:

  • Child care provider

  • Doctor or nurse

  • Therapist

  • Personal care attendant

  • Early Head Start teacher

  • Advocate

  • Family member or friend

  • Professional with expertise in your child’s disability or cultural background

A family's Early Intervention journey
Elizabeth Maxwell first suspected her baby, Scarlett, had delays at her 12-month well-child checkup.

"Scarlett wasn’t very talkative, and she wasn’t hitting all the milestones that she should be hitting at a year old, so I talked to the doctor about her possible delays. The doctor recommended that if she wasn’t speaking very much at her 18-month appointment, then he wanted us to pursue Early Intervention services. At 18 months, Scarlet was only saying “Ma” and “Da” so that’s when we got her enrolled in the Early Intervention program through Monroe County.

At Scarlett’s first IFSP meeting, the county chair introduced us to Hillside’s program Parents as Teachers, which was offered free of charge.

During that next year, we had Scarlett participating in a few services:

I took her to Kirsch Center, now URMC Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, for an evaluation and found out she had sensory processing disorder (SPD). After consulting with the speech therapist at Nazareth, we determined there was a need for occupational therapy (OT) to help with speech. Scarlett’s second IFSP included OT, Speech and Language Pathologist, and Sensory Integration services. PT was added to her second IFSP and has remained.

When Covid hit in 2020, it was time for Scarlett to transition to preschool. Like many parents, I reduced her services through teletherapy because it was not as helpful for Scarlett as in-person therapy.

Today, Scarlett is 4 years old, and she will be going to Pre-K through Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) because she still needs occupational therapy. She did graduate from speech, so we know the programs work!"

Elizabeth now advocates for EI through the Greater Rochester Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) and Monroe County Local Early Intervention Coordinating Council (LEICC).

“If you have a concern, even if everybody in your circle of parents say ‘don’t worry about it’ but your gut is telling you otherwise, you need to follow what is in the best interest of you and your family, not what your parent circle suggests. You know as a parent what is best for your child.” 
Upcoming free Starbridge webinars
Transition from Early Intervention to Preschool Special Education

September 23, 2021, 12:00pm until 1:00pm
September 28, 2021, 6:30pm until 7:30pm

Are you and your child ready for preschool?

Join our expert presenters as we guide you through the transition process from Early Intervention to the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE). We will help you to understand the transition process, be an active member of the transition team, and understand the difference between services in EI and CPSE. You will come away from this workshop with a better understanding of what to expect and how to support your child with a successful transition to preschool.

Registration is required. To register for the September 23rd session, use this link https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4538721741896458255

To register for the September 28th session, use this link - https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/764239061229885967

Additional resources