Schuylkill IU 29: Slow and Steady Progress

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

Changing lives: The Nolan Czeponis story
Charlotte Czeponis faced a dilemma. When her son, Nolan, was a toddler, he never seemed interested in imaginative play, like other kids.

Then, the staff at Schuylkill IU 29 Early Intervention taught Czeponis to incorporate Nolan’s need for sensory stimulation into playtime. Before long, Nolan, now 5 and diagnosed on the autism spectrum, was diving for items hidden in a ball pit, or finding the yellow-tailed dog amid puzzle pieces – all developmentally stimulating alternatives that “engage his imaginative play and make a difference,” says Czeponis, of Ashland.

“Now we have our own little sensory room. We got some leftover corn from a local corn festival, so we have a big corn pool in our basement.”

When Nolan started kindergarten – on time, at the recommendation of Early Intervention staff who recognized his need to be challenged – he was slated to spend 80 percent of his time in autistic support, and the rest in the typical classroom.

Half a year in, the ratio was reversed. “He’s like a sponge,” says his mom. She’s thrilled that he’s making steady progress in school, not being pushed through just to reach the next grade.

That’s the benefit of Early Intervention, says Czeponis. “I’ve gained the acceptance that has helped me come to this point, and it’s through their care, their compassion, and their recommendations. It’s overwhelming.”

Schuylkill IU 29 Early Intervention approach: Small steps for big success
In a large, rural county, delivering services in the most beneficial setting can mean driving 45 minutes to a child’s home. It’s all in a day’s work at Schuylkill IU 29 Early Intervention.

“We try to see the children in their least restrictive environment, and for some kids at age 3, that’s their home,” says Early Intervention Program Supervisor Lynda Yordy

To leverage resources so they stretch farther and effectively meet local needs, IU 29 Early Intervention embraces partnerships with “anyone involved with early childhood,” from libraries to a local Elks Club nurse, says Yordy.

The program also partners closely with Head Start, recently strengthening its collaboration to perform screenings for developmental delays. The expedited process means that children diagnosed with developmental delays get services sooner.

In Early Intervention, “every small success adds up,” says Yordy.

“You have to be grateful and thankful for every one of those little, small successes, because they do add up, and they are monumental in the end.”

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