Northwest Tri-County IU 5: Bridging to Success

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

Hayden’s story: Making friends
At age 4, Hayden had a vocabulary of about 20 words. She spoke only one- or two-word phrases.
By age 5, everything had changed, with help from Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit 5 Early Intervention.

“Now she says full sentences,” says Hayden’s mom, Kristy Hall-Manuel.

Hayden was born premature and showed developmental delays, including communication problems, from the start. Before she turned 3, she was diagnosed with autism. Through Infant/Toddler Early Intervention and comprehensive Early Intervention services, she made progress.

In the mornings, Hayden attends an Early Intervention preschool, where her developmental needs are addressed. In the afternoons, she goes to regular preschool with typical kids. Before her preschool exposure, Hayden preferred “to play with farm animals by herself, and only by herself.”

“Now, she wants to play near the other kids,” says Hall-Manual. “She’ll say friends’ names. She gets excited to be around other kids, which is wonderful to see.”

Today, the active little girl who loves to swim, be read to, and sing is preparing to enter school. Her mother hopes Hayden can be integrated into typical classrooms as much as possible. Without Early Intervention, says Hall-Manuel, “I don’t think she would be where she is now.”

The Northwest Tri-County IU 5 approach: Preparation and communication
In Northwest Tri-County IU 5 Early Intervention, the road to success is paved with preparation. Take, for example, the Therapeutic Learning Classrooms, or TLCs, where children with language learning needs get focused weekly therapies.

“It’s a bridge from home to typical preschool,” says Assistant Director of Special Education Kelly Fisher. “The children who enter the preschool setting are more successful.”

Staffers’ creative ideas include writing books that show children conquering their challenges. One teacher shared a book she wrote about telling the truth with “one little guy who would tell little fibs all day long,” says Supervisor of Early Intervention Susan Uzelac. “She has shared it with the family, as well, hoping that going over it and sharing the consequences of telling a lie will get through to him, and eventually the behavior will stop.”

Dialog among parents, IU staff, and preschool teachers promotes ongoing evaluation about the best routes for helping children achieve goals, says Uzelac. “Is it the appropriate setting? Is the child ready to move on, or pull back into a more restrictive setting? That’s how we support families and help them decide.”

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