Down syndrome is a genetic condition that causes delays in physical and cognitive development. According to the National Down Syndrome Association, the condition occurs in one in every 691 live births.
“When you’re told that your child will have a disability, you ultimately feel overwhelmed,” said Mr. Taylor. “I remember asking if our county even had an Early Intervention system, and then that settled feeling when we were assured of the services our son would receive without having to leave the area.”
Eric Preston Taylor, or Preston as he goes by, is now six months old and has been receiving occupational therapy, physical therapy and special instruction through CARE for Children’s Early Intervention Birth-Three programs since he was seven weeks old. All of the services are coordinated through McKean County’s Early Intervention system, which CARE is one of several providers.
“We were familiar with CARE for Children, but were not as familiar with how the organization was able to offer the services, or with the collaboration it takes for them to be successful,” said Mrs. Taylor. “We have been so fortunate to have a great team, from the county service coordinator to the therapists and special instructor.”
Birth to three services focus on skills that are typically developed during the first three years of life, and address delays in cognitive, physical, social/emotional, self help and communication skills. Early identification and treatment helps the child with a delay reach important developmental milestones.
“The first three years are critical in terms of development for children, “said Jane Hartle, Preston’s special instructor. “Children are most responsive to learning and the nurturing they receive; and early interactions and a child’s environment all play an important role in brain development.”
The service coordinator, therapists and teacher work closely with the family to determine goals and strategies for treatments, which will ultimately give Preston the best opportunities.
Ashley Carlson, MOT, OTR/L, Preston’s occupational therapist, said that the team approach to treating any child is significant. “I find close collaboration works well for everyone involved; the professionals can work together to coordinate and deliver the best services, and the family can take ownership of their child’s treatment. “
“Likewise, the family is able to expand its role to that of advocates, which is something the Taylors have quickly embraced,” added Carlson.
Early Intervention services are family centered and family driven. Parent involvement is one of the most important aspects in the treatment of children with delays or disabilities. Since parents are their child’s first and best teachers.
“As a therapist, I am there to not only guide a family on how to work with and for their child, but I am also there to follow through on suggestions or concerns they may have,” said Ann Kane, Preston’s physical therapist.
Hartle echoed those remarks, adding, “We at CARE can provide information and therapies, but the family helps us to help the child, and the Taylors have been exemplary.”
Preston’s sister, four year-old Kierstin, plays an integral role in his successes, as well.
“Kierstin is Preston’s cheerleader,” added Mrs. Taylor. “She loves reading to him, and encouraging him, and she gets very excited at his progress.” T
he Taylors and CARE staff shared in Kierstin’s excitement when Preston was recently able to raise and hold his head up. This milestone is usually reached between age two or three months for a typical child, but is an important achievement in any child’s development as the head and neck strength will lead to an increased ability to control the trunk of the body. The next milestones for Preston will be sitting up, rolling over and having an increased attention span to allow him to focus on play.
“We are so thankful to CARE for Children and the Early Intervention system, for making it possible for children to reach their full potential. Raising any child is challenging at times, but the rewards far out-weigh the challenges,” said Mrs. Taylor.