F or many employees of Millard Public Schools, the month of May represents a closeness to the end of yet another school year, and a taste of the work-free summer that is to come. Vacation, relaxation, the whole kit and kaboodle. But for some, the end of school doesn’t always mean your work is done. Occupational and physical therapists of the district are just a few of those who have to go the extra mile for the community and work during the summer to ensure every individual is cared for.
Millard provides early intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities, or those who may be at risk for developmental problems, and since early intervention must be provided at a critical point in development, these professionals can’t take the summer off. Children at or under the age of three must be seen year-round, without interruption.
Families are referred for these services by their doctors, various social services agencies, or even the hospital right after the child is born.
A team consisting of an early childhood teacher, speech therapist, physical therapist and occupational therapist goes out to the home to do an evaluation of the child and an interview with the family. Interview identifies family’s concerns for their child, and helps team and the family develop goals to work on to increase the infant’s development and readiness for school.
Some of the diagnoses the early intervention team works with are Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, autism, congenital deformities and cerebral palsy, among others. An infant does not have to have a diagnosis to receive early intervention services from the team.
The children are seen in their homes or daycare environments anywhere from one time a month to several times a week, depending upon the severity of their delays.
“It definitely keeps us busy, you have to keep on top of things to make sure you can come into work when you’re needed,” Occupational Therapist Amy Shattuck said.
Parents and caregivers play an active role in the process. The Early Intervention team does not simply provide traditional therapy services. Instead they coach the family on strategies to challenge and empower the child during their daily routines.
“Its our job to equip the child’s family with the right tools to properly care for them, and ensure they are as successful as possible in their early lives,” Shattuck said.
Cheryl Custard is one of these team members. She has worked for MPS for 17 years, and as a member of the Early Intervention team for 16. Members of the team work anywhere from 7 days to 15 days over the summer.
“Sometimes it is hard to hear teachers talk about looking forward to the end of the school year and getting the summer off when we still have to work,” Custard said. “But it is very rewarding to help infants learn to master their environments and give families confidence about their child’s development,” she said.