ARIN Intermediate Unit 28: Innovating in Early Intervention
A profile in the PAIU series, "Early Intervention Changes Lives:
Pennsylvania Families and the Intermediate Units that Serve Them"
The Evan DePrimio story: Making “astronomical” improvements
Infant-toddler Early Intervention helped Evan DePrimio overcome some physical and developmental delays, but by age 3, he still spoke little. Then he began preschool with ARIN IU 28 Early Intervention, and the change was “astronomical,” says his mom.
“He’s interacting with other kids,” says Amie DePrimio. “He’s requesting things by name. He’s counting. He’s saying his alphabet. He’s spelling the words.”
DePrimio and his Early Intervention teachers stay in close touch, swapping ideas for effective therapies. When DePrimio mentioned that Evan liked his weighted blanket – providing deep-muscle pressure that helps calm children with autism -- staff gave him a weighted vest to wear at the start of every day.
“I love that they’re willing to try anything that works for him,” she says. “They keep looking around for things that work with him and for him. If one of them doesn’t work, they try another.”
Attending IU 28’s reverse mainstream preschool, where half the children have developmental delays or disabilities and the rest are typically developing, has improved Evan’s socialization, says DePrimio. Plus, improved communication has lessened his frustration, because he can tell his parents what he wants.
“There’s no way my husband and I would be able to do for him what they do,” says DePrimio. “They’ve got the knowledge. They’ve got the training. Without them, he definitely would not be where he is. We will do our best for him, but he needs that extra help.”
ARIN IU 28: Casting a wide net
When it comes to Early Intervention, half the battle is finding the children who could benefit from help overcoming their developmental delays. That’s why ARIN IU 28 Early Intervention has built strong relationships with early learning centers, doctors, and social services agencies, linking families with referrals and testing that can uncover delays and lead to therapies.
An improved tracking system even means that staff can pinpoint areas where referrals might be lagging, all in the effort to reach every eligible child.
“Getting the word out is really important, because if parents are not aware that we’re here, they’re not going to get our services,” says Supervisor of Early Intervention Tamara Duff. “Referrals increase every year. We serve the population, percentage-wise, that we’re expected to, but there’s always that effort to find more children.”
The program strives to serve as many children as possible, wherever they are and even through the summer, because taking summer breaks can mean “some regression in children’s skills,” says Duff. “Keeping services going through the summer is better for the children, and it keeps their skills sharp and moving forward, rather than having a little hiccup.”
Even as IU 28 Early Intervention strives to operate amid rising financial pressures, Duff believes “we do an excellent job. Families are pleased, and they recognize that their children are getting good service.”
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