When her son was born with Down syndrome, Cecilia Lee felt “pretty lost.” She and her family grappled with questions of whether Alex would be able to walk one day? Would he talk? Would he recognize them?
Today, Alex is 8 years old and thriving in his elementary school’s second-grade classroom in Upper Merion Area School District. He is an avid reader and movie fan. It all comes “from having a great experience with Early Intervention,” says his mom.
The Montgomery County Intermediate Unit staff had the pleasure of welcoming the Lee Family as the keynote speakers at their Opening Day event on August 24, 2016. Alex addressed the staff and spoke of his positive experiences. He was followed on stage by his 13 year old sister, Isabelle, who has become an advocate herself for Early Intervention. During her motivational and touching presentation titled “My Advocacy Journey,” Isabelle shared how Alex’s therapists introduced the family to creative strategies for successful inclusion and included Isabelle in developing strategies for successful inclusion at home.
The Lee family’s advocacy journey for Early Intervention has provided the family the opportunity to speak at Early Intervention leadership conferences and meet with legislators at every level in Harrisburg and Washington, DC.
Early Intervention helped the Lee family think in possibilities. “We don’t take no for an answer, and we find different approaches,” says Cecilia Lee. “What are the things we can try so he can participate? We were taught to include Alex in everything we do as a family.”
The MCIU Early Intervention program proudly currently serves 2,850 children in 2016, about 100 more than originally projected, “and we’re still growing,” says MCIU Director of Student Services Dr. Lois Robinson.
The program takes a welcoming, customer-service approach, including:
- Performing initial evaluations as thoroughly as possible, to avoid missing important factors and subjecting children and families to further testing later.
- Employing a bilingual receptionist and therapists.
- Offering services anywhere in the child’s natural environment, including the home. Though this approach adds time and travel, the investment pays off by giving parents a firsthand look at therapies they can incorporate into family life.
- Working with parents to plan information sessions and fun activities, such as get-togethers for Early Intervention families. “It gives the families a chance to socialize as well as the children,” says Robinson.
“We really welcome the families, and we want them to view us as a partner, to see that we’re working together with them,” says Robinson. “Our goal is to help the children prepare for kindergarten.”