Beaver Valley IU 27: Early Intervention is Warm and Welcoming

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

The Maggie Antesberger story: An ‘awakening’
Maggie Antesberger was once “100 percent nonverbal” and so attached to her parents, Kody and Joe Antesberger, that she ducked under tables and around corners to hide from others.

“Once she started Early Intervention, that all went away,” says her mom, Kody Antesberger. “Now she plays with other kids. We go to the park. We go out to eat. Before, she wouldn’t sit with us at the table, and now she sits for almost the entire meal.”

Maggie is diagnosed with autism and ADHD. Since beginning Beaver Valley IU 27 Early Intervention speech therapy, her parents “can tell her things and ask her things, and she can answer,” says her mom. “We know what she wants and needs without her pushing us to the kitchen.”

When she first entered BVIU Early Intervention preschool, Maggie shied from the other kids. But as she sat alone in the play kitchen, staff “could tell she was listening.”

“And then slowly – or actually, kind of quickly -- she ended up in circle time,” says Antesberger. “There was one day, and they said, ‘She’s participating now.’ She decided this was the time.”

Today, Maggie loves circle time. She sings and dances with her classmates. Staff “make her feel warm and welcome.” Her rapid progress dispelled any thoughts of delaying kindergarten entry.

“She had this awakening, this turnaround,” says Antesberger. “Everybody agrees this wouldn’t have happened without Early Intervention.”

Beaver Valley IU 27: Promoting kindergarten readiness

Beginning around 2011, Beaver Valley IU 27 Early Intervention in conjunction with the Local Interagency Council began an intensive campaign to spread the word about free Early Intervention developmental screenings and evaluations to reach families in “every nook and cranny” of Beaver County, says Early Intervention Preschool Program Supervisor Lori Murtha. As a result, a total of 706 children, up from about 500, now receive the kindergarten-readiness services of Early Intervention.

“Our hope is that some of those kids won’t even need services as they go into kindergarten, but for the ones that need services, we’re hoping we’ve brought them a little bit closer to bridging that gap in their developmental delays,” says Murtha.

In a variety of settings, including BVIU and community preschools, students learn to play with other kids and experience the school routines they’ll encounter in kindergarten.

When it’s time to enter school, BVIU Early Intervention introduces parents to the special education system while helping school districts get to know incoming students and their needs, “instead of them showing up at the end of August and the district having to assess their needs and come up with a plan,” Murtha says. “They have a plan to prepare so they can hit the ground running when those kiddos come through their doors on the first day of kindergarten.”

Throughout the process, families are fully integrated in choices made for services and settings.

“They’re part of that decision-making process because ultimately, they know their child best,” says Murtha. “They are key to the success of the child.”

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