As a parent, Michelle Toy didn’t know what to do. Her daughter, Mara, was born with a cyst on her brain and had a brain bleed. The conditions went virtually undetected until she was eight weeks old.
“Mara had brain surgery, and a shunt was placed inside her head to drain her spinal fluid,” Michelle said. “Later she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and mild brain damage.”
The West Jefferson family turned to the Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities for help.
“Early Intervention has changed our family’s lives for the better,” Michelle said. “I believe it has helped her in so many ways, and I hope this program continues for many years to come.”
Early Intervention is a group of services and programs working together to meet the special needs of children (and their families), birth through age 2. Eligibility is determined through physician records indicating a medical condition, or by a develop-mental evaluation completed by a team of professionals in different fields that shows the child is demonstrating a delay in at least one of the following areas: large or small muscle movement, speech and language skills, cognitive skills, social and emotional skills, and/or self-help skills.
According to Michelle, her daughter’s pain was so unbearable that Mara cried about 18 hours a day for almost the entire first year of her life. Because of this pain—as well as severe sensory and social issues—Mara was only comfortable with a select few people holding her.
Now at age 2, Mara allows a wide range of people to hold her and play with her. She is very close with her therapist/primary service provider through the Early Intervention program at Fairhaven School.
“The Help Me Grow and Early Intervention program has given Mara so much, and we are very fortunate to have this be a part of her life,” Michelle said. “She has become a happy little girl that is starting to allow others to interact with her.”
Help Me Grow Early Intervention (EI) is the state’s program for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities, and their families. According to Madison County EI specialist Julie Anthony, the program has four goals: to enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities; to reduce educational costs by minimizing the need for special education; to minimize the likelihood of institutionalization and maximize independent living; and to enhance the capacity of families to meet their child’s developmental needs.
Through EI, Leigh Counts, an occupational therapist, provides Mara with home-based services several hours per month. She works with Mara and her family, fol-lowing a coaching model to provide them with activities to do in everyday routines and activities. Mara’s family uses these techniques taught by the therapist to give her ongoing assistance.
Michelle is grateful for the support afforded to her, her daughter and her family throughout this process.
“As parents with a handicapped child, the bills can be very overwhelming and with the Help Me Grow program it takes away the stress of added bills as well as the program helping you and giving you information needed to assure that your son or daughter is getting all the medical treatment needed,” Michelle said. “We are so grateful for this program and what it has done for so many families like ours.”
To find out more about Early Interven-tion and other programs offered for children with disabilities, contact Fairhaven School at (740) 852-7052. For more about services for children and/or adults, contact the Madison County Board of Develop-mental Disabilities at (740) 852-7050.