Parent Credits Newaygo County RESA Early On Service
By Nicole Skrabis NC RESA Early Childhood Consultant
Even though none of their four other children required Early On services, Alissa Hance and her husband, Joe, were already familiar with Early On® Michigan’s reputation for helping optimize children’s abilities before their son, Jackson, was born with Down syndrome.
Early On® Michigan is a Michigan Department of Education program that provides early intervention services to families of infants or toddlers (from birth to age 3) who have a developmental delay or disability. “We heard from families who told us how much early intervention meant to their kids,” Alissa said.
Five weeks after...
...Jackson came home from the hospital, the Hance’s had their first visit with an Early On service coordinator.
Jackson required eye surgery at 6 weeks and an open-heart operation when he was 3½ months old – among the first of five surgeries and 10 hospital stays. Despite the numerous surgeries and hospital stays, Early On service providers continued to visit the Hance’s home once or twice a month during Jackson’s first year, focusing on his cognitive and physical development, including speech therapy of which had the extra benefit in helping Jackson with swallowing and eating.
“Without Early On, we wouldn’t have started early intervention soon enough,” Alissa said. “We would have had to take that on at a later date by ourselves.”
Along the way, Early On service providers have set goals for Jackson to work toward and celebrated with the family every time he reached a milestone or showed improvement. They also provided useful equipment, such as a walker, that Alissa said “opened up a whole new world to him,” and practical tips, including resources for acquiring children’s glasses. “They’ve given Jackson the tools he needs to be his most successful, whatever that might hold for him,” Alissa said.
When you talk to Alissa Hance about Jackson now, at age 2, the word “thriving” comes up a lot: “That’s how our pediatrician refers to him – ‘thriving.’” Alissa is quick to trace Jackson’s blossoming development to Early On’s intervention services.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Jackson is thriving because of early intervention,” she said. “It’s just amazing, really.”
Thanks to Early On services – including speech, physical and occupational therapy – Jackson is adept at communicating through sign language, is learning social skills in a preschool playgroup and is steadily building fine motor skills, including the ability to walk.
“Jackson’s story and many others like it statewide highlight the importance of identifying and addressing developmental delays in children as early as possible,” said Christine Callahan, Director of Innovative Projects for the Clinton County Regional Educational Service Agency, which administers Early On® Michigan in Newaygo County. “The evidence is clear that early intervention improves and enhances the development of a child because learning is at its highest rate in the preschool years,” Callahan said.
The program has given the Hance’s peace of mind that Jackson is receiving all the services that will help him fulfill his potential. “Our quality of life as a family just increased,” Alissa said. “What Early On has done for our family is immeasurable.”