Early intervention program helps boy find his voice | News, Sports, Jobs

HELP – Theo Kennedy found his voice after working with the Jefferson County Council on Developmental Disabilities Early Intervention Program. — Contributed

STEUBENVILLE — Theo Kennedy is a ball of energy, playing with his cat and enthusiastically showing off some of his toys.

Theo, the 2 1/2-year-old son of Ashlea Kennedy of Stratton, is finally finding his voice after working with the Jefferson County Council on Developmental Disabilities early intervention program. The EI program currently coordinates services for 77 children, 66 of whom are on individual family service plans who receive services in their homes. About 15 employees provide a variety of services, including special instructions from developmental, occupational, physical and speech therapy specialists, while the state offers consultations for vision services, audiology and mental health.

Kennedy said the boy wasn’t talking when he was a year old and she wondered if it was something more serious. She described him as a very laid-back baby who usually made sounds but never spoke words.

“I started to notice him and compared him to other kids his age. » she remembers. “I didn’t know if he was on the right track. Some said it was normal, but others said it wasn’t. I was also concerned about autism. I know some of the symptoms are non-verbal or have limited language, but he is so active and so social. I spoke to his pediatrician and she suggested I take him to EI and have him evaluated.

Théo met representatives of IE who offered him their services to help him flourish.

“Some of my feelings were validated” Kennedy added. “I said yes, I need all the help I can get.”

She and Theo would meet at the home with speech therapist Jane Herron, who worked with Theo and showed Kennedy and the boy’s grandmother, Elizabeth Kennedy, strategies that helped him improve his communication, such as sign language. They also used a board that could be written or drawn on, and hung magnetic pieces with pictures and verbal descriptions of foods, dinosaurs, and photos of family members so that he can identify them. The sessions took place weekly, then monthly, and Théo finally started speaking a year ago.

“His first sign was for ‘more'” she added. “The first time he said ‘Mom’ he was almost 2 years old.”

And to her, it was the sweetest sound.

“I was so excited that he spoke. I thought he would say more words and he left. He learned the basics of sign language to be able to express his feelings. » she said, pointing out that he had been saying the sentences for six months.

Herron recalled that Theo was very receptive to learning and said the sessions were based on playful interaction with a mix of sign language. Contrary to some beliefs, she said sign language does not prevent a child from speaking but helps them transition to speaking. Another advantage is that Théo’s mother and grandmother were able to work with him themselves.

“I think the program helped him and his mother. She and her grandmother really got involved and figured out the word board. she says. “I think that really helped him because he never expressed his wants and needs, and soon he was able to express them on his own. When parents stay involved, you become more like a coach. The program is done through play and his mother watched and did what I did. He then progressed at a good pace.

Herron added that the employment insurance program benefits parents as well as the children who benefit from it.

“People don’t realize it’s not just about working with the child; Employment insurance is there to help parents acquire the skills needed to help their child. When we work with children, we are a role model for parents. This gives children the opportunity to benefit from interventions before going to school.

She has worked with children in schools and through JCBDD for 47 years and says it never ceases to amaze her when a child achieves their goals.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity and it’s just very rewarding.” Herron said.

Theo is another shining example of a positive outcome. While Herron would normally work with a child until age 3, she ended her sessions a little early due to her progress.

Nowadays, the boy loves looking at books and is getting more used to verbalization. Theo will spend time with the word board, identify the magnetic pieces and pronounce the words, plus he will speak in sentences. It’s a clear indication of the progress he’s made in the short time he’s worked with the program. Kennedy admits she was hesitant to use EI, but now realizes how vital it was for her son and how it could benefit other children.

“It’s crazy to think how much he’s progressed. He started with Ms. Janie after her first birthday and three months later he spoke his first words. I really like (the employment insurance program). I love how hands-on it was and enjoyed working with Jane and Service Coordinator Nick Saggio. That’s wonderful. Theo loved spending time with them and I wish more people would enjoy it.

She smiles as Theo runs and shouts more words.

“It really worked for him and maybe it could work for other kids too.” He is doing very well and I feel like he is now on par with his peers. she says. “We talk about so much stuff and I love it.”

For more information about the program, contact JCBDD at (740) 264-5812, ext. 1130.

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