When the COVID-19 pandemic forced The Warren Center, a Richardson-based nonprofit that provides therapy and support to families with children who have developmental delays and disabilities, to suspend in-person early intervention visits last spring, families of infants and toddlers with disabilities or delays faced a near impossible challenge of obtaining services such as speech, occupational therapy and developmental therapy. Within 48-hours of the shelter in place orders, the team at The Warren Center quickly activated a plan to provide telehealth services to patients at home.
For more than 40 years, The Warren Center has been able to provide in-person early childhood intervention services for little or no cost to North Texas families. For the last 10 months, the focus of these services has been through Skype, Zoom or other internet platforms so families could connect with their therapists and continue to receive needed early intervention services remotely. The Warren Center has recently opened up appointments for in-person evaluations and therapy for those who are unable to make teletherapy services work. As businesses begin to reopen in North Texas, the nonprofit encourages teletherapy as much as possible but if families are not able to accommodate virtual sessions the staff is fully equipped with PPE as outlined by the CDC in order to serve these children. Whether through in person or online therapy, the experts at The Warren Center are committed to ensuring that children with delays and disabilities and their families receive the hope and help they need while ensuring that everyone remains safe and healthy.
“Early intervention services are critical because young children grow and develop so quickly. If they do not receive services during that narrow window, it can have lasting effects. The pandemic made it that much more critical to embrace and evolve the at-home services and parent-coaching model,” says Amy Spawn, CEO of The Warren Center.
“While we are providing therapy, we encourage parents and caregivers to take a hands-on approach. We teach parents techniques during the sessions that help them continue therapy throughout the week. We also coach parents through life scenarios. We understand that every family is different, and every child is different, so we create programs that are unique to your family’s situation,” she says.
The CDC estimates one in six children have intellectual or physical disabilities or delays. In Dallas County alone, over 102,000 children have a developmental disability. The period between birth to five years is a time of rapid development. The earliest possible intervention is critical due to the accelerated brain development during these first years of life. Early childhood intervention programs have been shown to yield benefits in academic achievement, behavior, educational progression and attainment, and labor market success.
The Warren Center Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program serves children, ages birth to three years old, with developmental delays or disabilities. The Warren Center’s team of early childhood specialists, therapists, social workers, and other professionals conduct evaluations and provide services to children and their families at home where they live, learn and play.
Early Childhood Intervention Services include:
- Evaluations for all infants and toddlers at no cost
- Case management at no cost.
- Service coordinators help families access and receive the services, resources and support they need to support their child's development. Support includes helping the child and family transition to special education services or other options, as appropriate for children exiting ECI at age 3. ECI provides comprehensive case management for all members of the child's family as their needs relate to the child's growth and development.
- Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) development at no cost.
- An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is a written document as well as a process that you and a group of professionals create to ensure favored outcomes for your child’s early intervention program. It outlines the recommended ECI services for your child and details when, where, and how the ECI will deliver these services. Think of the IFSP as a map or guidebook that helps keep you and your early childhood specialists on track.
- Translation and interpreter services at no cost
- Service Coordination
- Individualized therapeutic services in speech, occupational, and physical therapy, developmental education, feeding and nutrition training, specialized skills training and social work
- Referrals to specialty providers
- Specialized ECI Groups to help children transition from home to school and build social communication skills.
- Bridge Group facilitates the transition from the home to a structured, preschool setting, for children 32-36 months of age. During biweekly virtual classes, therapists work with children to separate from parents more easily, transition smoothly between activities, participate in typical preschool activities (story time, music, snack, and crafts), and increase expressive and receptive communication skills.
- Koala Club is for children ages 27-36 months, who need additional help with separation from parents, interacting with peers and other adults, and using words or gestures to communicate their wants and needs. Children in Koala Club often have several sensory needs. Koala Club requires parental participation in both the class and parent education session. The group encourages parents to interact with their child, label objects and actions, model play skills and help facilitate interaction with peers. We also give parents the opportunity to share their struggles, successes and answer questions about communication, behavior and community resources.
- Transition planning with special education providers.
- ECI services end when the child turns 3. Well before that time, the ECI team, including the family, decides on next steps. Children may transition to public school, preschool, Head Start, child care centers or other community activities and programs, or they may stay home with their family. For children who need further intervention services the goal is a smooth transition with no service gaps.
ECI asks families who can afford to do so to share in the cost of services. This is called the Family Cost Share. The amount a family pays for services is determined using a sliding-fee scale and is based on family size and income, after allowable deductions. No child or family will be turned away because of an inability to pay. You may be asked for permission to bill your or your child’s insurance for these services.
The Warren Center’s team of highly-skilled therapists are ready to help children with developmental delays and disabilities reach their full potential with early childhood intervention. To request services parents are encourage to fill out a form on the nonprofit’s website or call 972-490-9055 to learn more about Early Childhood Intervention services.