Central Susquehanna IU 16: Finding What Is Best for Kids

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

The Logan Sampsell story: Improving “in a flash”
Logan Sampsell could interact with adults “just fine,” say his mom. “But he wouldn’t converse with his peers.”

Diagnosed on the autism spectrum, Logan loved talking about cars and restaurants – topics that weren’t of much interest to most preschoolers. Through Central Susquehanna IU 16 Early Intervention, Logan was exposed to the imaginative playtime of his peers and taught to have conversations. Improvements came “in a flash,” says his mom, Christina Sampsell.

“When he started preschool with CSIU, he took off,” she says. “He started in April, and by that summer, it was a huge difference in socialization, interaction, and conversation.”

Sampsell and her husband, Quay, manage a busy household, with 5-year-old Logan, his 4-year-old sister, a rescue miniature schnauzer, and the kids’ beloved great-grandmother living nearby. Through Early Intervention, Logan has blossomed and is now displaying amazing talents. He loves to “travel” the U.S. by declaring different rooms of the house as states, turning a bedroom into California, perhaps. He’s so fascinated with real estate that he accurately calculated the mortgage on a $327,000 home.

“I can’t even do that,” his mom admits.

Preparing to enter kindergarten, Logan has done so well that the school district recognizes he can work in a typical classroom. He is “a success story with CSIU,” says his mom. “They have gone leaps and bounds for him. Anything I’ve ever had a concern about, they have worked on it with him. They have found what’s best for him.”

Central Susquehanna IU 16: Getting creative to serve families
At CSIU Early Intervention, the mantra is “least restrictive first.” That means serving children in the best setting for their needs, whether it’s in the home or in a community preschool. The challenge? Central Susquehanna covers a vast territory of five, largely rural Pennsylvania counties, stretching resources to the limit.

Staff rises to the challenge by coordinating their travel time, participating in existing events such as parent-teacher conferences, and adopting practices that improve their efficiency in order to better serve families.

“They stepped up to the plate to learn new pieces of technology and data gathering that are required of us and, in turn, required of them,” says Director of Special Education and Early Childhood Services Jennifer Williams. “They came up with creative ways to get done.”

CSIU Early Intervention works directly with Head Start and Pre-K Counts, providing services in classrooms while engaging in “wide-open conversations, to be fiscally responsible and cover as many students as we can,” says Terri A. Locke, Early Childhood Program Supervisor.

The program is working with Pre-K Counts on possibly opening a second reverse mainstream classroom, where kids of all abilities play, learn, and are exposed to kindergarten-readiness skills. It’s all part of the willingness to adapt and “work smarter, not harder,” says Locke. “I inherited a veteran staff. They’re all very dedicated and very committed.”

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