Carbon Lehigh IU 21: Preparing Children to Enter School with Confidence

A profile in the PAIU series, "Early Intervention Changes Lives:
Pennsylvania Families and the Intermediate Units that Serve Them"

The John Brislin story: Being included
John Brislin is a typical 5-year-old boy, but he has come a very long way.

“He participates in group activities,” says his mom, Megan Brislin, of Emmaus. “He’s less shy. He’s got his sense of humor. He’s doing more activities that are group oriented. He wants to participate in playing with blocks or reading a book.”

All this in a young boy who spent the first 10 months of life in a hospital. Born with cerebral palsy, John couldn’t communicate in his early years, and he had difficulty with coordination.

Through Carbon Lehigh IU#21 Early Intervention, he gets a range of therapies and has been able to join a typical preschool and CLIU’s special-needs classroom. His special-needs teachers “are outstanding,” says Brislin.

“They’re experts,” she says. “They communicate together very well. It’s a team approach. They’re so loving toward the kids.”

John loves playing and joking around with his brother, 10-year-old Braden, and his sister, 8-year-old Kate. Like John, Kate has cerebral palsy and overcame many challenges with help from Early Intervention. Their mom loves the inclusiveness they’ve found through Early Intervention, because “whether it’s intentional or not intentional, the rest of the world doesn’t always include them in things.”

“I couldn’t even imagine what we would do without it,” says Brislin. “They’re unique kids, and the IU was definitely the right place at the right time.”

Carbon Lehigh IU#21: Opportunities for all

In a region covering cities and countryside, Carbon Lehigh IU#21 works hard to find every child who qualifies for the Early Intervention services that promote their healthy development. They visit community events, communicate with doctors, and partner with Head Start, the maternal-child food program WIC, and other programs.

As CLIU 21 Early Intervention Supervisors Maryalice Grogan and Jennifer Curtis note, the children served have a wide range of needs.

“There is a high number that just need speech in typical early childhood settings, all the way to children with multiple disabilities,” says Grogan. “We have a full continuum of services available.”

Though children have varied needs, Early Intervention staff work to assure that each one enters school ready to learn. Many won’t need special education due to the help they got overcoming learning delays. In some cases, Early Intervention helps families establish relationships with school districts to ensure that children with special needs learn to the fullest for the rest of their education careers.

“Our hope is that parents feel their children have benefitted from the services we provided,” says Grogan. “We help build those relationships with the district so when the child enters school, parents feel confident that the district is there to support the child and the family.”

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