This article originally appeared in Star Chronicle, a newsletter
published for the Children's Medical Center.
Picture a two-year-old who is not speaking, an infant with Down syndrome or a
baby who has a sensory disorder. Families with children under three utilize the
UMass Early Intervention and Family Support Program for services to help lessen
or prevent the effects of a developmental delay.
The program's transdisciplinary approach to treating children allows them to
look at the whole child, not just at the delay that is present. Children under
three learn differently than older kids. They learn better by practicing
activities in short spurts throughout the day so they can process the
information in between practicing. Spacing out new behaviors allows the child to
be taught in the context of his or her daily routine so he or she can see how it
fits into everyday activities.
Children do well when taught in a familiar environment, such as a home or
daycare. Another vital factor benefiting the child is family buy-in. The family
must agree with the treatment plan and put it into effect on a consistent basis.
In other words, babies and toddlers learn more if the skills are done regularly,
not just when program staff is present.
Physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists, social workers,
early childhood development specialists, psychologists and nurses make up the
teams. Each child has a service coordinator who develops the Individualized
Family Service Plan. If the child's main concern is speech, then a speech
pathologist would take the lead. Coordinators also need to be trained to examine
other areas, such as physical therapy and then consult with that area for input.