Almost a year ago, the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DCBDD) took a leap of faith in changing the institution’s the Early Intervention Program model.
At that time, Superintendent Kristine Hodge said DCBDD was making the move because the staff who were running the pilot program believed in it.
“It’s been an awesome journey,” said Early Intervention Director Peggy Kroon Van Diest. “Mostly what we wanted was to believe in the process. I think we’re hook, line, and sinker right now.”
Kroon Van Diest said in the traditional program children with a developmental delay were assigned a therapist for each concern. She said the therapists had different schedules, showing up on different days and different times.
“It was a lot of traffic going in and out of the client’s home,” she said. “The new approach is the primary service provider.”
Kroon Van Diest said families now have a team of therapists who discuss the needs of the children and the families they serve.
“There’s a team and the team meets weekly,” she said. “They look at what are the priorities of the family and who best on the team of professionals would work best in the home.”
Kroon Van Diest said having a primary service provider allows for a relationship to be formed with the family. She said if the parents see something unusual the provider brings it up at the next meeting.
“We don’t want the therapists to be the experts,” she said. “We already know that the parents are experts on their own child. We’re giving them the tools and the skills that they can work with him every single day and not once a week.”
Kroon Van Diest said in the traditional program the different therapists didn’t interact with each other, causing a disconnect that was frustrating for the therapists and the family. She said it could be two weeks before a family could get services.
“We still have some families in the traditional program, but we now have more families in this new approach,” she said.
Tiffany Smith is the mother of 2-year-old Alexander, who is a special needs child. She said she sees Alexander’s primary service provider once a week.
“I speak to her more than that on the phone,” she said. “It’s very comforting. I’ve always said the core team is my village. It’s a whole group of people that all know about Alexander and know everything that’s going on.”
Smith said because the team is talking about Alexander in the meeting, his speech therapist is already aware what’s going on and what progress he has made.
“She’s not coming in completely blind. She has already heard about Alexander or met him,” she said. “It’s not like having to start all over again with a new therapist. The village is the best part of it.”
Daniel Smith, Alexander’s father, said a therapist coming in one hour a week isn’t going to make the great improvements.
“If your kid has a (developmental disability), your child’s number one priority is their therapy,” he said. “It is a parent participation thing.”
Kroon Van Diest said DCBDD has three teams currently in place around the county.
“We try to keep it geographic because it cuts down on the therapists’ mileage and some of the service providers live in the area,” she said. “We’re still building the other two teams.”
Kroon Van Diest said the plus to the program is that “families don’t wait to get services.”