Richland Newhope continues to serve infants, toddlers, families

By Connie Emery - Early Intervention Specialist

MANSFIELD — Ivan Brewer is a super smart and very spirited two-and-a-half-year-old little boy. Like all boys, he loves trucks, dinosaurs and his new swing set. Ivan, his little brother Joshua, and his parents Josh and Ivy Brewer are a part of Richland Newhope’s Early Intervention Program.

As an Early Intervention Specialist, I typically visit Ivan in his home and in his Early Head Start classroom to address his expressive language and motor delays. I provide Ivan, his family, and his teachers with fun ways to build Ivan’s strength, balance,and coordination and to increase his expressive communication.

Due to Covid-19 stay-at-home restrictions, Ivan’s family is sheltering in place, restricting some of their usual activities and sometimes feels a strain with everyone at home. Because of social distancing, I’m unable to meet with Ivan in person.

But just as Ivan’s parents are determined to make sure that family together time means family-fun time, Early Intervention is committed to continuing to serve families like the Brewers with infants and toddlers with disabilities and delayed skills. Because infants and toddlers with delays could experience regression if services are interrupted by COVID-19, other Early Intervention staff and I are using technology like Zoom, Duo, FaceTime and conference phone calls to make sure Ivan and other Early Intervention children and parents continue to make steady developmental progress.

Tuning in for remote Early Intervention visits has been easy and familiar for the Brewers because Ivan’s younger brother Joshua already receives remote Early Intervention services from an Early Intervention hearing specialist. Of course, Early Intervention most frequently serves families in their homes, directly coaching parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers with delays to implement high interest interventions, relevant to the child’s delay area, and urging families to practice interventions during everyday routines and activities. When these services must be offered “remotely,”these goals do not change. Moreover, since the children involved are infants and toddlers, fun therapy — embedded within a family’s every day routines and activities — is still the name of the Early Intervention game.

For language, sensory and fine motor play, we wash giant dinosaurs with shaving cream! We stir up spring-time bunny cakes,baking, icing and then decorate them. We make home-made Kool-Aid, and do dough-kneading, rolling, cutting and poking.

These are the types of activities I have demonstrated to Ivan’s parents and encouraged them to replicate for home therapy. Ivy and Josh are very committed parents, following through on therapy recommendations for their children and seeing the resulting positive developmental progress.

After one recent remote visit, Ivan and his family made their very own batch of playdough. After another remote visit, they made a spring bunny cake. That’s Early Intervention shelter-at-home style!

Although home visits have been suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions on social interactions, Early Intervention has thus found creative ways of using technology to continue to deliver highly effective interventions to families like the Brewers—and to make shelter-in-place a more enjoyable and developmentally productive experience for sometimes restless infants and toddlers.

By Connie Emery

Early Intervention Specialist