ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Tina Carney knows first hand how important Early Intervention services are. Her daughter Meredith went through the program when she was two-years-old.
“I noticed that she wasn’t speaking very well. I have two older children and so I knew that she should be a little further along than she was,” Carney said.
Early Intervention (EI) is a voluntary support and developmental system for children. EI services children from birth through age 2 and their families where there is a high risk of delay or a confirmed diagnosis of developmental disability.
“If there is a disability or suspected disability or delay, they provide an evaluation and the child could qualify potentially for services… speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, things like that,” Carney explained.
These services are incredibly important because for children ages 0 to three, that is when their bodies are developing rapidly.
“So if there are delays or issues, that’s when our brains can fix and repair and adapt quicker than any other time in our development. So early intervention is critical because it’s most efficient to catch things early, and to take care of things. And it’s also cost effective too,” she said.
To spread awareness about Early Intervention, Carney and a group she is part of called the Local Early Intervention Coordinating Council (LEICC) helped make September Early Intervention Awareness Month in Monroe County.
This was the first year this month was recognized.
“Rochester is just so resource rich, and so many people have interest in children. And in an early intervention it just made sense to just have something and just bring people together. So this isn’t necessarily something new or recreating the wheel. But it’s just an umbrella to bring people together to network and to raise awareness on all levels,” Carney said.
Throughout September, the group held a few events to bring awareness to EI, including a kickoff event at Genesee Valley Park at the beginning of the month. Organizations and local leaders came to learn more and celebrate with donations and games.
One part of the month has been bringing awareness to the shortage of providers there are for EI. Carney said the rate providers are paid haven’t seen an increase in many years, which can lead to a lack of workers.
“My daughter actually was waitlisted for a few months because there weren’t enough speech therapists. And while you think a three to six month wait isn’t that long, when you’re only talking a program for zero to three years, six months is a long time,” Carney said.
She said she is hoping the awareness month helps get out the word about EI, encouraging more families to know about services and utilize it.
“We need people to just speak up and to say that we need this to make it a priority for everyone,” Carney said. “My hope is that this program becomes as well known as other public programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, that we just know it. We’re not there yet. But I think, at least in Monroe County, we’re getting a lot closer.”
For families with a child in EI, Carney said it’s important they have a support system.
“I feel for those who don’t have that support community. It can be a very isolating feeling. When my oldest got his ADHD diagnosis, the first thing that went through my head was, ‘where were my parents at? Who else is going through this? What is it like to live this?’ And it was it was hard for a little while to find your people in the tribe. But once you do, it makes all the difference in the world,” Carney said.
For more information on Early Intervention and how you can find services, you can visit the Monroe County Early Intervention page or call 585 753-5437.
You can also visit LEICC’s page to get involved by clicking here.
According to LEICC’s website, they are a group of professionals and parents who meet 4 times each year to discuss issues concerning the operation of the Early Intervention Program. There are also subcommittees that meet more often and work together on projects members feel are important to improve the quality of the Early Intervention Program operation.