Programs helps children with developmental delays

Published 6:35 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Melinda Watts said she knew there was something wrong when her 9-month-old daughter, Jamie Watkins, was not making any attempts to walk.

Jamie’s father, Eric Watkins, said she would walk when ready and there shouldn’t be a concern.

The mother of four said her other children were walking at that age and knew something was wrong. Rather than waiting for Jamie to “walk when she was ready,” Watts called the Early Intervention Program at the Ellisville State School.

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“Within three weeks they were in my home doing an evaluation,” she said.

A psychologist, therapist and teachers with the program observed Jamie in her every day environment to see what she could accomplish.

Since being enrolled in the program, Jamie, who will turn 2 in April, has developed almost perfectly on target for her age group and continues to see a program instructor.

“She’s being a typical little girl and bossing around her older siblings,” her mother said.

Watts’ call also helped her learn what led to Jamie’s developmental delay — the child had fluid over the frontal lobe of her brain. The amount of fluid has started to shrink and an annual visit to a neurosurgeon means the fluid is not a major problem.

“When you have older children developing on a standard timeline and you have one who isn’t, you know something is wrong,” Watts said.

The evaluation also helped Watts realize Jamie’s communication skills were underdeveloped.

“She should have been saying two syllable sounds such as ‘da da’ and she was not doing that because her older brother, Logan, could figure out what she wanted and she had no need to say much,” Watts said.

The Early Intervention Program services 100 children and has offices in Laurel, Ellisville and Waynesboro and has been in service for 22 years.

After an initial call, referrals go to Jackson to the First Steps Program and an evaluation date is set for the potential parent.

“All parents need to do is to make a phone call to us or a doctor can call to make a recommendation,” said Kaye Smith, program director.

The program provides:

— Learning activities to enhance a child’s development in cognitive, self help, social, communication and motor skills.

— Social services for social and parental support.

— Speech and language therapy to enhances a child’s communication skills.

— Physical therapy to increase gross motor skills that include rolling, sitting, standing and walking.

— Occupational therapy that develops independence to do tasks such as dressing and feeding.

— Staff to coach families to promote overall development of children in their natural setting.

“Their services are all fantastic,” Watts said.

Smith said after an evaluation each child gets an individualized family service plan that details the workout plan for the child as well as an outcome.

“If a child needs to learn to walk, a teacher or therapist will have to look at what a child is doing and then do activities to help the child’s abilities and get him to walk,” she said.

“We give parents guidance and help with a child’s developmental skills.”

The Mississippi Department of Health provides service coordinators

“If a parent has any concerns, don’t listen to others who say it will happen over time,” Watts said. “If you are concerned, make the phone call because you could soon be dealing with a child who has aged out of EIP.”