Delaware County IU 25: Personal Attention and Positive Atmospheres

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

Changing lives: Riley’s story
In Delaware County, a little girl named Riley was scheduled for cochlear implant surgery. The preschooler, receiving classroom-based services through Delaware County Intermediate Unit Preschool Early Intervention, had been through a difficult year, enduring excess fluid issues and declining hearing capability.

As her surgery neared, Riley’s Early Intervention specialists prepared her for the big day. They brought in a nurse who acted out the procedure as Riley played the patient. They even made a hardcover book with pictures from Riley’s mock surgery.

“Riley was proud and showed everyone this book and described exactly what was going to happen that day,” wrote Riley’s mom in a thank-you letter to then-DCIU Executive Director Dr. Lawrence J. O’Shea. “She even brought it to surgery and read with the surgeon.”

Through her daughter’s surgery and daily development, Early Intervention staff stayed “on top of every situation and was always thinking ahead to provide more support,” wrote Riley’s mom. The team, she said, “has personally put Riley on a road to success.”

“They truly are remarkable people and we could not be happier with our decision to have Riley in this program.”

The Delaware County IU approach: Positive environments
DCIU Preschool Early Intervention describes its services as special education for children with special needs before they enter kindergarten. In about 200 preschools, it provides professional development for teachers in implementing Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS).

PBIS creates a positive classroom atmosphere that emphasizes what children can and should do to behave, says Director of Early Intervention, Melissa Hance.

“Some children hear ‘no’ so often, they don’t even know what they should be doing,” she says. PBIS-trained teachers offer alternatives – encouraging a child to walk, instead of run, for instance – so children “know what to do, rather than what not to do,” Hance says. 

PBIS is “absolutely making a difference” for children receiving Early Intervention and their classmates. Some children even grow out of the need for Early Intervention for social and emotional problems.

“It’s a much nicer environment to be exposed to day to day, when people are kind to each other and positive,” Hance says. “The expectations are clearly explained, and children are taught how to meet those expectations. We are very confident that our kids make incredible progress.”

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