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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Area organization helps the young

Friday, February 13, 2009

There are several non-profit organizations in the area that serve to help members of communities.

Some of those organizations get their names in the press on a frequent basis.

One, however, First Steps of West Central Indiana, may not be as well known as some of the others, but it's just as important.

The agency -- also a non-profit -- is an intervention program for children from birth to 3-years-old.

"We serve 11 counties and we have providers that serve (those counties)," agency coordinator Peggy Eppert said.

The agency serves children in Clay, Vermillion, Knox, Daviess, Greene, Martin, Owen, Putnam, Sullivan, Vigo and Parke counties. Currently, Eppert said the agency is serving 40-45 families in Clay County.

"We've been doing it probably 20 years in Clay County," Eppert said.

Eppert may be a familiar name to some Clay County residents.

She taught for a few years in the Clay Community School Corporation, serving as an early elementary teacher at both Jackson Township Elementary and Staunton Elementary.

Her experience working with young children helps her with dealing with children she currently works with.

"Because of my teaching background, you become aware of a time to intervene with kids early," she said. "You don't want them to fail."

Eppert said there is no physical location for the organization, as it prefers to have its providers deal with children in their environment.

She said the Hamilton Center in Terre Haute provides a place for the organization to keep records, however.

Eppert said the program works with other families and doctors among others when taking referrals for children who may need the program.

She said doctors are diagnosing conditions in children much earlier now than in the past, giving more reason for the organization to help families deal with possible crisis.

"Children used to be all lumped together," she said. "We intervene early so kids can reach those developmental milestones."

Eppert said the organization has several programs to offer children, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, educational specialists and speech therapists.

"We go into the child's natural element," Eppert said. "We go to them. They don't come to us."

After an initial diagnosis provided by professional therapists that work for the organization, providers develop a plan for the child with their parents.

She added, according to her statistics, one out of every four children that take part in the program ends up in special education services.

"It's usually pretty stable," Eppert said. "I believe there are people out there who can benefit from our services."

Eppert added some of the families providers have worked with were initially skeptical.

"We have some families that are not comfortable," she said. "You have to build that relationship. But kids are really receptive."

For more information on the program, call 1-812-236-8060. To make a referral for the program, call 1-877-860-0413.

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