As parents, we don’t always recognize developmental disabilities in our children.
Sometimes disabilities are associated with conditions diagnosed at birth, such as Cerebral Palsy or Down syndrome but often they appear as patterns of behavior that might be dismissed with frustration. Moms can do everything right and still struggle to breastfeed newborns with low muscle tone. A toddler’s excessive chewing could be related to sensory issues instead of the terrible twos..
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, a time to spotlight the significant role early intervention makes to ensure people with developmental disabilities have the same opportunities as those without.
VersAbility Resources’ Early Prevention and Intervention for Children Program (EPIC) helps children reach their full potential. This family-centered program provides information and support to families of infants and toddlers under the age of 3 in Hampton and Newport News.
Getting help starts with a referral to the Infant & Toddler Connection of Hampton/Newport News, says Robin Drummond, manager of VersAbility’s EPIC program. She stresses, “Anyone can make that referral.” That includes doctors, social services or other agencies, or parents themselves, concerned about something that seems off about their child.
The Infant and Toddler Connection filters the referrals and schedules an initial appointment with VersAbility, which meets with families to complete the intake process.
“At that appointment that can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half, we learn all about the family’s concerns about their child. We explain how early intervention can help and what services are available,” Drummond says.
While children accepted into the EPIC program must meet eligibility requirements, no family is turned away for an inability to pay.
If a decision is made to move forward with early intervention, families are directed to the appropriate resources that typically include physical, occupational and speech therapy. VersAbility remains involved throughout.
“Once we start working with a family, we are with that family as long as their child is in the program,” Drummond says.
An Individualized Family Service Plan lays out milestones for children enrolled in EPIC. The plan is reviewed annually and renewable if necessary.
Often addressing a developmental delay can be as simple as a parent tweaking a certain part of the child’s daily routine. If that’s the case, everyone who interacts with that child regularly — grandparents, babysitters, daycare providers, etc. — must be on the same page in following recommendations.
“When consistency is implemented, you almost always see the progress you are hoping for,” Drummond says.
If parents suspect a developmental disability in their child, Drummond encourages them to be proactive.
“Early intervention definitely makes a difference, and that key word is early,” she says. “The earlier we can work with our little ones the better because at a certain point, it becomes a habit. Habits are hard to break.”
For more information on EPIC, click this link.