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BOWLING GREEN — With her 15-month-old quadruplets teetering and tottering around the Jordan Family Development Center, Perrysburg mom Lauren Lake said she wants to make sure her three sons and daughter have the best start possible.
"My goal is for them to be developmentally on target with their age group, with their peers," she said. "Just to be right on pace. That's my goal."
View more photos from the Jordan Center's session.
On Friday, Isaiah, Michaela, James, and Dakota, who were born 10 weeks premature, had their first session with the early intervention team of the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Their hour-and-a-half class at the Jordan Center included interaction with other children from birth to 2 years old who show evidence of one or more delays in their development.
Nineteen-month-old Rhys Williams of North Baltimore giggled as he checked out familiar toys, then ran back to his mother, Dawn. He has a speech delay that prompted Ms. Williams to seek early intervention services.
"He only had one word when he started coming in January, now he has four or five, and he also has three or four signs," Ms. Williams said.
Rhys promptly demonstrated his favorite sign — putting his fingertips together to signify "more," as in more of the vanilla pudding the children were enjoying at snack time.
"He's our second one to go through the program," Ms. Williams said, explaining that she didn't want to wait to see if the speech delays exhibited by both Rhys and her 3-year-old daughter Heather would correct themselves.
"All the research shows the earlier you get therapy, the better the chance for a successful outcome."
Joanne Hayward, Wood County's early intervention coordinator, said that is the whole philosophy behind early intervention services, which are federally mandated and offered in every county in Ohio through the state's Help Me Grow system.
"When you look at that time frame from birth to a child's third birthday, there is just so much growth and brain development that goes on during that time," Ms. Hayward said. "The whole goal is to get at that window of opportunity to bring children to their optimal development."
Among the program's staff are early intervention specialists, an occupational therapist, a speech language pathologist, and a registered nurse. Some families opt for home-based services where the specialist comes to the child.
Others take their children to the Jordan Center on the Bowling Green State University campus for developmental play groups and therapy that give the children the opportunity to interact with other little ones and for their parents to do the same.
"It's an emotional time for parents, and all the help and extra support you can get early on is all the better for your child," Margie Harris, family support specialist with the program, said.
A requirement of her job is that she have a child who has gone through the early intervention program — experience she relies on to help other parents coming to terms with their own child's delay. Ms. Hayward said parents also learn ways to help their children at home in ways that seem more like fun than therapy.
The services are free, and demand for them has grown considerably in recent years. Wood County served just 24 children in 1990 — a figure that grew to 213 in 2010. Ms. Hayward said she does not think there are more children with delays but simply better public awareness about the services and more referrals from pediatricians, health department staff, and others.
Some children qualify for the program because of medical diagnoses such as Down Syndrome or cerebral palsy, but others have no diagnosis but just aren't meeting the usual milestones and need some extra help to be ready for school, she said.
Emily Klocko of Rossford is a fan of the early intervention program, nine of her 11 biological, adopted, and foster children having been involved with it. The children have grown socially and academically because of the early services, she said, though the program benefits parents too.
"I think the best thing about early intervention is when you're a parent — and it doesn't matter how you've become a parent — and you have any child with any type of special needs or any developmental concern, early intervention is just someone who is your sounding board and someone who can point you in the right direction," Ms. Klocko said. "... There is someone who holds your hand all the way through from birth until they transition into the school system."
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.