Intermediate Unit 1: Introducing Children to New Experiences

A profile in the PAIU series, "Early Intervention Changes Lives:
Pennsylvania Families and the Intermediate Units that Serve Them"

Joseph’s story: The future engineer
Joseph didn’t talk much in his early years. Now, at 5 years old, he’s reading Legos kit instructions and “can build pretty much anything,” says his mom.

“I think he’s going to be an engineer,” says Derya Rix. “Now that he’s talking, he’s asking a lot of ‘why’ questions.”

Joseph is a student of IU 1’s Early Intervention preschool. He first had speech therapy through Infant-Toddler Early Intervention, but when he entered preschool at age 3, he remained “a bit socially awkward because he couldn’t talk,” recalls his mom.

There, Joseph continued to receive speech therapy and also benefited from the highly structured classroom. Teachers taught Joseph sign language that he would then teach to his mother. They also encouraged the boy who would only eat crunchy foods to try new textures.

“I couldn’t get my child to eat cupcakes, which is sad,” says Rix. “Now, he’s more open to trying new things.”

Joseph is “ready for the next step” as he prepares to enter kindergarten, says his mom.
“If you had asked me two years ago if he would be ready for kindergarten, I would say no,” she says.

“He was so delayed, and so much behind his peers. I thought there was no way he could make that much progress in two years, but he did. I cannot say enough good things about his teachers and Early Intervention.”

The Intermediate Unit 1 approach: Rapid response for maximum impact
Intermediate Unit 1 Early Intervention takes the “early” part of its mission very seriously. By law, Early Intervention programs have 60 days to evaluate a child who’s been referred, but IU 1 recently streamlined its process to guide children into services much faster.

“Ages 3 to 5 are such important years for a child,” says Barbara Rothermel, IU 1 supervisor of Early Intervention. “A couple of months can make a huge difference in development. If kids are going to kindergarten the following year but we’re not getting them until January or February, we’re losing a lot of valuable time.” 

For many children, the goal is getting them to kindergarten without needing special education.

“A lot of preschoolers might have just a speech delay or a delay in social issues,” says Rothermel. “We can start services and have them ready by the time they get to kindergarten. It’s huge for the school districts, because then they don’t have that expense, and the kids are ready to learn with their classmates.”

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