Parents are their children’s first teachers. It’s a role that requires a lot of on-the-job training, but when a child is experiencing developmental delays, demands on parents can sometimes feel difficult and stressful.
Parents in the Fredericksburg region need to know that they don’t have to face these challenges alone.
The Parent Education—Infant Development program is an early intervention program for children from birth to 36 months. The program, run through the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board, serves families in Stafford, Spotsylvania, Caroline and King George counties and the city of Fredericksburg.
Why early intervention?
During the first three years of a child’s life, the brain is making more than a million neural connections every second. It’s hard to overstate how important this period is for laying a foundation for future growth. For children who experience developmental delays, this time period is an important opportunity, when interventions can yield results that help children gain the skills and functionality that will help them as they get older.
What is Parent Education-Infant Development?
Many people know us as “Early Intervention.” We are a team of 24 providers, including speech language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, early childhood education specialists, and service coordinators. We work directly with parents and children in their homes, and now via secure Zoom meetings amid the pandemic. We work with parents to develop a plan of therapy, with activities designed to help children make the most progress they can during these crucial first three years and minimize developmental delays.
How do I know if my child could benefit from Early Intervention?
While we receive referrals from hospitals and pediatricians, it’s important for parents to know that they can call us directly. At a time when brain development is so rapid, the sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get started and start helping a child build skills. Have you noticed that your child is not doing things that other children his or her age are doing? That may or may not mean there is a delay, but it never hurts to call.
Our assessments are free. The pandemic has meant that many parents and children are not visiting playgrounds, classes and other settings where they would normally see other children as often. We encourage parents to begin to educate themselves about developmental milestones by using resources such as the CDC’s “Milestone Tracker” app to observe whether a child is achieving appropriate milestones. It’s important to look at the milestone ages but also to look at the quality of the skills being displayed. They may be walking—but are they walking without falling, in a straight line, and using the correct part of the foot? They may say 50 words, but are they using those words to communicate and get their needs met? Parents can reach us at 540-372-3561. If in doubt, we encourage you to call.
What can I expect when I call Early Intervention?
A Service Coordinator will contact you and learn more about your child’s history and your concerns. We’ll schedule an assessment with two of our providers, representing two different therapeutic disciplines. Our assessments typically take two hours. They are comprehensive, multi-disciplinary assessments that cover social-emotional growth, cognitive development, language, fine and gross motor skills, sensory functioning and self-help skills. We also do a vision and hearing screening. We have recently begun including the Modified Checklist for Autism in our assessments for most children ages 16 to 30 months. While we do not diagnose autism, this does help identify signs that could warrant further diagnostic work with a specialist. Most of our assessment is a team approach, including the parent, observing and engaging the child in play time and activities of daily living. We then work with the parent to develop a plan for what to do next. Our services are parent-led, not clinician-led, and we want to work on the areas that are priorities for our families.
“I cannot say enough about the wonderful services I have received with our Early Intervention experience. From the moment we began our services, we’ve been showered with knowledge to guide our daughter toward her goals in a manner that is personable and helpful. Our daughter is treated as a person and the services are geared toward her development beyond her delays. Our Speech Pathologist, Jaime, is truly amazing and with her impeccable knowledge has helped our daughter reach and surpass her goals. We are exceptionally pleased with the services we have received.” – Toni Jones, parent
What makes PE-ID’s services effective?
We start from the belief that parents are their children’s best coaches and advocates. We make it a priority to empower parents. Parents and children are in the comfort of their own homes when they work with us. This allows us to use tools and toys that are already available and develop strategies that are easy to implement throughout a typical day. The goal is for these strategies to be done during everyday activities such as meals, play time, and getting ready for bed.
The transdisciplinary approach we take is also unique. In a traditional approach, a parent might have to take a child to separate appointments with a speech language pathologist, physical therapist and an occupational therapist to get comprehensive treatment. All of our providers are cross-trained in multiple disciplines, meaning we can often help parents accomplish their goals with far fewer providers and visits—and all in the comfort of home.
To learn more, call 540-372-3561 or visit Rappahannockareacsb.org
In the words of a provider…
Jaime Biagi, Speech Language Therapist
I have been doing this work for 20 years, and the joy of working with children at this exciting stage of their lives never gets old. I get to watch parents go from being uncertain, and sometimes fearful, about what is going on with their child, to becoming the best advocates for their children.
When I arrive at a home, many parents will say, “Here comes the teacher,” but that’s not really true. The teacher has always been there—it’s the parent. Our job is to help parents unlock those powers that they already have to impact their child’s growth. We are only with families for a brief period of time—it’s the parents who continue this work with their children when we aren’t there. They help their children blossom. As I share strategies and activities, I watch them grow into brilliant, amazing therapists.
I enjoy working with families from so many different cultural backgrounds, with different languages, religions and family styles, in the comfort of their homes. For children, especially young babies, home is the most natural place for them to be, and it’s also where the families feel the most comfortable. It’s such an amazing opportunity to get to work one-on-one with them in the home setting.