By Lisa Smith
February is Early Intervention Month in Nova Scotia. I would like to take this opportunity to share some information on this valuable community service.
Early Intervention is a program offering specialized services to children aged birth to school age who have or are at risk of developmental delay and their families. The delay may be due to a diagnosed condition such as spina bifida, autism, Down syndrome or may be of unknown origin. The program is free and confidential. There are 17 early intervention programs in Nova Scotia. Pictou County Early Intervention has been providing supports to families for over 16 years.
Early Intervention offers families support and advocacy, education on developmental disabilities, toy and book lending, transition to preschool and school services, informal assessment of their child‚Äôs strengths and needs, referrals to other services and individual programming to address the unique learning needs of each child. Services are family-centred and play-based. Research tells us that the early years present crucial learning opportunities for children. Interventionists use play to help children develop skills in the five developmental areas of speech and language, cognitive, social, self help and motor skills. Services are free and confidential. Early interventionists also work closely with other service providers such as speech language pathologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, to name a few. Parents or anyone who has parental permission can refer a child to the program. Intervening early can prevent further delays and help children meet their potential.
Pictou County Early Intervention is a non-profit registered charity operated by a volunteer board of directors. Funding is provided partially through the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and local fundraising. As we are not fully funded, fundraising is a large responsibility as we strive to meet the demands for service.
We currently support several families with fundraised dollars who would otherwise be on our waiting list. There are currently 36 children in the program with another 21 waiting to be served and 12 new referrals. Many families have been waiting over one year. It is our hope that this will soon change with the promise of more funding by the Liberal government. Until that time, we will continue to work hard to ensure we can continue to serve as many families as possible. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the United Way of Pictou County for their generous support as well as the countless individuals and groups who have supported us during the past 16 years. A mere thank you hardly seems adequate. Your support has helped us reach our goals. You have made a difference in the life of a child with special needs.
As part of our fundraising efforts this month we are hosting two fundraisers. The first is Hot Soup/Cool Jazz which will take place Feb. 14 at Summer Street Industries, 6-9 p.m. The evening will involve sampling gourmet soup while enjoying jazz as well as a silent auction. Soups will be judged and the winning chef will receive the Golden Ladle. Tickets are $25 and are available at the door or by calling 752-1016.
The second fundraiser is a Pub Night at the Whitetail Pub and Grill in Westville, Feb. 15 at 9 p.m. Music will be provided by ‚ÄúAs of Yet‚ÄĚ with a $5 charge at the door and 50/50 tickets for sale.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the families who have welcomed us into their homes over the years. We are privileged to have had the opportunity to support you and your children. Congratulations on your successes. We look forward to helping many more in the future.
If you have concerns or questions about your child‚Äôs development, or for more information, please call 752-1016. Our trained interventionists are here to give you the tools to help your child succeed.
On behalf of the staff, board of directors, past and present families, please join us in celebrating our successes and assisting those who need our help. Our children are our future and they deserve the best start we can give them.
Lisa D. Smith is Executive Director, Pictou County Early Intervention.