Riverview IU 6: Early Intervention Prizes Relationships
A profile in the PAIU series, "Early Intervention Changes Lives:
Pennsylvania Families and the Intermediate Units that Serve Them"
The Wade Huwar story: Communicating with peers
Wade Huwar, born with hydrocephalus that affected his development, didn’t start speaking until he was 8 years old. Still, he entered kindergarten ready to communicate and interact with his classmates. Riverview IU 6 Early Intervention, says his mother, helped make it possible.
“He was around all kinds of peers, some younger and older,” says Liz Huwar, of the Clarion County town of Strattanville. “He was ready for kindergarten because he was used to that structure and schedule. He used a board to communicate and an iPad to form sentences.”
Wade, now 10 and diagnosed on the autism spectrum, is attending a special education classroom in Clarion Area School District. Through Early Intervention, he received physical therapy and occupational therapy that remediated weakness in his hands; as well as speech therapy that prepared him to communicate. He also learned socialization skills through his interactions with his teachers, therapists and classmates.
Seeking their own ways to help, Wade’s parents often turned to Early Intervention for answers. They learned about an intensive speech program at Clarion University that Wade still attends.
“You’re made aware of a lot more opportunities for your children,” says Huwar. “What else can I get him involved in? There are a lot of resources in the community and through the IU.”
All that support, she says, “helps parents keep positive and keep plugging along, knowing that we can make a difference.”
Riverview IU 6: Continuity in the equation
Riverview IU 6 employs its own therapists, instead of contracting outside of the organization for those services. When schools need occupational, physical, and other therapies, they contract with the IU to obtain the therapists. That way, the therapists have a full schedule that justifies their employment and allows them to devote time to preschoolers in Early Intervention, as well as students in school-age classrooms.
As a bonus, the IU’s Early Intervention staff is thoroughly involved in the educational goals of their students, and children are assured that the same faces “will be around year after year.”
“We know these kids and their families,” says Assistant Director of Special Education Mary Anne Jordan. "Relationships are developed between our Early Intervention program staff and the families, which provides a little bit of continuity in parents’ lives as they go through the school system.”
RIU6 Early Intervention also builds relationships with Head Start, Pre-K Counts, and private preschool programs, helping them create spaces where children with special needs can thrive. Early Intervention staff offers various trainings based on the classroom population, perhaps helping teachers build classroom management skills or address behavioral problems among children of all abilities.
The Early Intervention classrooms integrate students with special needs and typical learning peers whenever possible.
“Being around typical peers is always better than being segregated,” says Communications and Operations Manager Tina Gibbs. “We provide a lot of support for these programs. We’ve invited agencies so they feel supported and feel they can take on educating children with special needs.”
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