Play time creates progress for toddlers

Free Early Intervention helps children with developmental delays.
Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 7:11 PM EDT
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ALCOA, Tenn. (WVLT) - Demand is up for help with Early Intervention services through Tennessee’s Department of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities. This service is offered free for children from birth until they turn three years old.

DIDD Commissioner Brad Turner said he wants all parents who have concerns about their child’s ability to reach milestones and learn to the best of their ability to reach out to his department. “I’m proud to be a parent of a child that came through that program,” said Turner. “I certainly can understand and am empathetic to other families that are experiencing some of the questions and the fears that come with that.”

The department said around 10% more parents have been enrolling children for the service as compared to a year ago. Earl Intervention involves connecting families with various professionals who can help with therapies such as speech, physical, occupational and developmental. Beyond what insurance will pay, the state pays the excess cost for families.

“We’re working on that social engagement,” said Early Intervention Coordinator Andrea Cooper. “The gross motor piece, about ‘I can balance in a swing, I can hear things outside’.” Cooper coordinates for professionals like Developmental Therapist Sandra Hoyos, who has helped two children in the Manning family. Mother Camie Manning said, “Sandra has been with us since Sagan was a baby. She came to our house and played with Sagan.” Now, her son is attending preschool and keeping up a typical pace for learning in school. He and his 2-year-old sister, Ivy Jean, share the risk for some developmental delays related to a genetic condition.

Now, Ivy Jean plays in her backyard while Hoyos tries to engage her with speaking and songs, teaching her to engage with the world around her. Her mother said, “Impulsive. She has some motor skill delays a little bit, too. When they actually assessed her ot, she was just a little bit behind.” Now Manning is encouraged, as she watches the growth carefully of all three children, including her newborn.

“I feel so much better knowing that my kids have all the help that they need.” said Manning. “And the earlier that you can get it going, the better. It makes me a lot less worried because we have so many other people watching for red flags and other things that are going on.”

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