NEW GLASGOW – A local program that has been helping families with special needs children for the past 15 years is urgently in need of funding in order to avoid cutbacks.
“Pictou County Early Intervention Association is in a crisis situation,” said Lisa Smith, the program’s executive director. “If we don’t raise an additional $50,000 by the end of March, there will be no funding for 12 of the families currently receiving help for their child.”
The program provides free services for families coping with children who have been diagnosed with or those at risk for developmental delays. It currently serves 37 children with difficulties such as spina bifida, prematurity, autism and cerebral palsy.
She said families who have used the program insist it has made a vast difference in their children’s progress and they can’t imagine doing without it.
Emmett Francis, one of the children in the program, has multiple challenges with spina bifida, hydrocephalus and no-verbal learning disorder, says his mother Charmaine Smith.
“When we began taking part in the program, he could only make a few grunting noises,” she said. “Now, after receiving help he is very proficient in his speech and has made amazing progress in so many other areas. Having the support of the wonderful people at the centre was like having an extra set of ears. PCEI staff are more than just early interventionists to us. They have become part of our extended family.”
Pictou County Early Intervention Association works with children from birth up to the age when they would begin school, providing bi-weekly or monthly home visits. Services include referrals to various community agencies, a book and toy library and support in multitude of areas, including transitions to preschool and public school.
It is a registered charity and does receive some funding from the Pictou County United Way and the Department of Community Services as well as the proceeds from some local fundraising efforts.
“That, however, is not enough to continue to provide the current level of service for this confidential home-based program,” Smith said. “That’s why the organization has started its fundraising campaign. The early years are considered to be crucial for learning and development. No child or family should have to wait for this service.”