The first few years of a child’s life are critical to their development, laying the foundation for all their activities – cognitive, behavioral, social, physical and more.
Years zero-to-three are also the critical time for intervention to minimize factors that put children at risk of poor outcomes.
If you have a concern about your child’s development, early intervention is critical, says Angela Nelmark, Support Services Supervisor from the Family Outreach office in Helena.
What is Early Intervention? Here are 7 informative, life-changing tips to get you started.
1. Montana Milestones Part C Early Intervention Program
The State of Montana provides an entitlement program called Montana Milestones, which funds early intervention supports and services for eligible infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities until age three. Early intervention services are a range of targeted services and may include assessment and evaluation, family training, counseling and home visiting service coordination, along with several other related intervention services. Screening for the program is free and confidential.
2. Early Intervention Is Important for Any Delay or Disability
Montana Milestones covers every kind of potential developmental delay, such as speech and language issues, or trouble with motor skills. Early intervention can help children minimize or even overcome disabilities, no matter how seemingly minor. You do not have to wait for an external source to identify and refer your child. If you have concerns, call (406) 443-7370.
3. Early Intervention Is Empirically Validated
Learning and development are at their highest rates in the preschool years. Some children, due to conditions noticed at birth, special needs or developmental delays, risk missing some of the most important learning and developmental milestones. Early intervention helps keep these children on a path to make the most of the abilities and skills developed during the early years, thus significantly increasing the child’s ability to integrate in future social environments, including school, community and ultimately employment.
4. Intervention Occurs In the Natural Environment
The natural environment approach offers services at home, where the child is most comfortable. It supports families and teachers who collaborate with therapists and intervention specialists to target developmental interventions within the child’s regular routines and activities.
5. It Helps the Family as Well as the Child
Early intervention is not designed to replace the family. In fact, much of the service aims to empower parents to enhance their child’s learning and development through everyday learning opportunities with individualized goals. “At Family Outreach, the staff works closely with the family to provide supports based on the family’s priorities and child’s needs,” says Nelmark. Early intervention helps build a nurturing and supportive environment for the entire family.
6. Early Intervention Is Fun
Family Support Specialists use play to help children improve their language, social, physical and other developmental skills, and coach family members on how to do the same. Your child will never know that the enjoyable activities in which they engage are individually developed learning opportunities.
7. The Earlier You Act, the Better for Your Child
Receiving word that your child has a developmental disability can be scary. Don’t let it hinder you from acting in your child’s best interest. All the research shows that the only thing more effective than early intervention is earlier intervention.
Family Outreach is a private, non-profit agency that provides education and support services to children and adults with intellectual disabilities or developmental delays in the Bozeman, Butte and Helena areas. These services include early intervention, autism insurance services, children’s waiver, supported employment and supported living.
Services are delivered directly to families in their homes to provide support and resources that enhance cognitive, language, social, emotional, physical, and adaptive development through everyday learning opportunities.
For more information about all of the services they provide, visit FamilyOutreach.org or call (406) 494-1242.
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