Early Intervention needs and services grow as rapidly as the children served. Early Intervention is experiencing exciting growth in services for children who demonstrate the red flags for autism. As there has been an increase in drug epidemics in local communities and an increase in referrals of infants exposed to substance abuse, there is a prominent focus on infant mental health.
A substantial amount of research supports that it is important to act early when children demonstrate signs of autism or developmental delays. Early intervention services can change a child’s developmental path, assist families in meeting their child’s special needs, and provide a cost saving benefit to society by reducing long range costs of special education (The Importance of Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities and Their Families : www.nectac.org). Effective January 1, 2015, the state of Virginia’s Part C Office now recognizes Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) and Board Certified Associate Behavior Analysts (BCaBA) as providers of early intervention developmental services. As a result, very young children can benefit from developmental services provided by professionals with an expertise in autism.
In October 2010, the Virginia Association for Infant Mental Health (VAIMH) was created to assist Virginia in the development of comprehensive system of early childhood mental health supports. Virginia adopted the Center on the Social Emotional Foundation for Early Learning (CSEFEL) Pyramid Model as the conceptual frame work of evidence based practices supporting social emotional development of young children. Early relationships are important for brain development, physical health, and mental health. In the early stages of child development, social emotional and physical health goes hand in hand (ECMH Focus – Technical Assistance Update May 2012). Virginia now offers an infant mental health endorsement through completion of a professional development plan that focuses on knowledge, best practice skills, and supervised work experiences that lead to increased confidence and credibility within the infant and family field. Endorsement by the VAIMH will verify that an applicant has attained a specified level of functioning and understanding based on a set of competencies that have been identified and agreed upon by hundreds of professionals, service providers, faculty members and policy makers in the infant and family field.
Many communities in Virginia have been affected by an increase in drug use. As a result, early intervention programs have needed to figure out ways to address the increase in referrals and the unique challenges substance exposed and substance affected infants present. Representatives from the State Part C office and the Director of Early Intervention for the Infant and Toddler Connection of Shenandoah Valley have joined the Virginia’s Handle With C.A.R.E Initiative through the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. The goal of the C.A.R.E initiative is to Coordinate Access – Respond Effectively to maternal substance abuse and the needs of the substance exposed and endangered children. There is research that shows that prenatal exposure to illicit drugs can cause physical, emotional and developmental issues for infants and young children (National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare). If concern for these children is continued past birth, the needs of these children and families become more complex. Creation of interagency standards of care to include model protocols of assessment, screening and referral that supports both mother and child will aid in ensuring these babies can experience positive growth and development through the support of Early Intervention and various other agencies offering family support.
The Infant and Toddler Connection of Shenandoah Valley embrace the growth in early intervention approach to services. The professionals in the program are fully committed to providing families served the highest quality of service based on research and evidence-based practices. For more information on early intervention services, please visit www.itcshenvalley.org or contact Sharlene Stowers, Director of Early Intervention Services at 540-635-2425 ext. 4052.