Early intervention is a service which works with children from birth to age six who have a developmental delay or who are “at risk” for a delay. A developmental delay is when a child is not doing the things that we would expect them to be doing at a certain age. For example most children are walking by 18 months of age and saying first words around 12 months of age. A child would be considered “at risk for delay” if they are born prematurely, experienced any type of birth trauma, or have a sibling with a developmental delay.
Referrals are received through a variety of sources. For example, referrals can be made by a family doctor or pediatrician, daycare worker or preschool teacher, a social worker, or the parents themselves.
In 1997 Jenna MacDougall was referred to QECDA because of concerns with her speech and other red flags for autism. Jenna’s mother Natalie remembers when she was first told by her speech pathologist that she believed Jenna had autism.
“It was a blow when she told me”, says Natalie. “I didn’t understand it and I thought how can I work on it if I don’t understand it?”
Jenna and her family participated in the early intervention program for two years until she entered school. Natalie appreciates the information and support she received from QECDA.
“Early intervention accepted my child and gave her a place. It is because of the support from QECDA that she’s done so well. They really focused on her needs.”
Jenna and her family knew that Jenna had to work harder to accomplish many of the things that often comes more easily to others.
As Natalie puts it “with my son I expected it but with Jenna I appreciated it.”
And that hard work has certainly paid off. In June 2012 Jenna graduated from Liverpool Regional High School. In September 2012 she began classes at Mount Saint Vincent University, pursing her education to someday work with children with special needs.
One of the services that was offered to Jenna when she was four years old was the QECDA summer early learning playgroup. Fourteen years later in the summer of 2012, Jenna was hired as a summer student playgroup assistant.
Jessica Whynot has a son Keenan who participated in that playgroup. Keenan also has a diagnosis of autism. Jessica felt it was wonderful opportunity to have Jenna work with her son.
Jessica thinks that Jenna is a great role model for children with autism and she “is excited to think of what her son’s future could be by watching what Jenna has accomplished.”
Executive director Denise Lowe Whynot agrees.
“It was a delight having Jenna working with us over the summer. She is a perfect example of what can be accomplished with the right supports.”
In honor of early intervention awareness month, QECDA will be holding an open house on Saturday, Feb. 23 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Members of the community are invited to drop in at 6 Bridge Street in Milton. For more information on early intervention services in Queens County please call 354-5890 or visit our website at www.earlyintervention.net/queens/