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Sunday, May 1, 2016

One face of the First Steps Program

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Lively and spirited, 16-month-old Grace Long is one of the many faces of the First Steps Program.

"The program has helped her so much," Grace's mother Angela said.

Angela, who has five other children, took her daughter to the doctor when she was four months old because she was unable to lift her head properly.

"Certain things just weren't right, and I wasn't comfortable with the 'wait and see' approach. I didn't want to wait, I wanted a second opinion," Angela said. "After having my other children, I knew things didn't seem right."

Grace was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy on the right side of her body and placed immediately intotherapy for her condition.

"I wouldn't have known how to handle Grace's problems without First Steps' help," she said. "She's the kind of child that could have easily been left behind. I don't know where we would have turned to without their help."

When watching Grace play with her toys, she looks like any other toddler.

"She's walking now and that wouldn't have happened," Angela said, picking up her sleepy daughter to cradle in her arms. "She is developmentally delayed by 4 months, but normal in every other respect. Grace's life is as normal as it can be with her handicaps, and it wouldn't be this way if it wasn't for First Steps."

Parents want the best for their children's future, so they watch each progressive step in the development of their children with concern.

"Early intervention with developmentally appropriate activities is the key to children being successful throughout their school years," LEAAP Prevention Coordinator Mary Yelton said.

Indiana's First Steps System is an early intervention program for the youngest members of our community; children from birth to three years old.

There are two different ways children can become involved in the First Steps Program. Many children are referred to the program by doctors, hospital staff, or other social service agency caseworkers, while a large number of families that are concerned about their child's progress for whatever reason contact the program themselves.

Families at any economic level with infants and toddlers showing signs of being at-risk to have certain delays in the future, have been diagnosed with a condition that will most likely result in a developmental delay, or children with developmental delays can be helped through the local program.

The goal of First Steps is to help Hoosier families make sure their infants and toddlers receive services now to help them succeed in the future.

"We have seen dramatic improvements in children who have been involved in First Steps," Yelton said. "They enter preschool ready and excited to learn."

Sidebar: The following areas of childhood development can be measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and standard procedures in the First Steps Program:

- Cognitive and communication development and sensory impairment, including vision and hearing

- Physical development, including vision and hearing or low birth weight

- Adaptive skills including eating skills, dressing and toiletry skills and other areas of personal responsibility

- Neurological disorders or severe infectious diseases or toxic exposure

- Social and/or emotional development

- Chromosomal abnormalities or genetic disorders

- Congenital malformation or atypical developmental disorder

- Maternal prenatal complications, limited prenatal care or severe prenatal or postnatal complications including small for gestational age (SGA).

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