Lincoln IU 12: School Readiness Through Early Intervention

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

The Ellie Childs story: Achieving her potential
In her first years, Ellie Childs couldn’t unclench her fists or hold objects, including her parents’ hands. Then, Lincoln IU 12 Early Intervention therapists taught her to use her fingers.

“She can now point, which she could never do before,” says her mom, Annie Childs. “She’s learning how to push a button on a communications device to tell us she wants pretzels. She’ll come take my hand and lead me places.”

Born with a rare genetic disorder, Ellie was 8 months old when speech, physical, and occupational therapies started. When she entered Lincoln IU 12 Early Intervention at age 3, Annie and dad Brandon found the same caring support they’d always experienced. Therapists and teachers shared strategies and connected the family with support groups and other services.

One therapist who noticed Ellie’s love for movement suggested installing a swing inside the home.

“Now we have a swing in our basement and in Ellie’s room, and she loves them,” says her mom. “That was something we would have never thought of.”

When Ellie visits her doctors and specialists, “they always say how healthy she looks and how much progress she’s made,” says Childs. “To us, it’s a blessing to hear how all these therapies are working. Early Intervention has been a lifesaver. I don’t know what we’d do without it.”

Now, IU 12 Early Intervention teachers are helping with the kindergarten transition, even scouting out suitable classrooms for Ellie. Through Early Intervention, Childs has learned that her daughter can be encouraged and even pushed, within her unique learning needs, to reach her full abilities.

“We hope we’re walking that fine line carefully, that we never lose sight of believing in her,” she says. 

 Lincoln IU 12 Early Intervention: Follow the child
Early Intervention “isn’t a place,” says Lincoln IU 12 Preschool Supervisor Jody Bering. “It’s a support, and we work as hard as we can to figure out how to support our kids wherever they are.”

Take, for instance, the child with special needs who plays with friends twice a week in Lincoln IU 12 Early Intervention preschool and two other mornings in a community preschool. Behind the scenes, the IU 12 teacher regularly visits the community preschool teacher, where they swap notes on how best to help the student overcome developmental delays.

It’s not just a matter of Early Intervention teachers sharing their specialized knowledge in support of their students, says Bering. Those IU 12 teachers also employ the lessons learned from community preschool teachers, who are equally skilled at promoting early childhood development and socialization, says Bering.

“It’s a two-way street,” she says. “It’s about asking how we can work together to help this student succeed.”

Many students phase out of IU 12 Early Intervention, going from intensive supports to “only touching base with us” as they enter kindergarten, says Bering. School district staff recognize that the Early Intervention students are ready to learn, respond to teachers’ directions, and follow classroom routines.

“It shows that children are learning those independent skills,” she says. “Those skills carry over, and they can interact with their peers.”

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