Guest Blogs by Pettrice Lewis and Brittney Dixon
Eight years ago, our tiny bundle of joy Neo Lewis, arrived at 26.5 gestational weeks. He was immediately diagnosed with significant hearing loss, and within months, eye cancer which claimed most of his vision. Before leaving the hospital from his extended stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, we were told that we would be contacted by someone within the District of Columbia’s early intervention team, but had not yet grasped what that meant. We only knew that we were suddenly thrust into a new world, as a family with a child with special developmental needs, and ongoing health issues.
Within a few weeks, we received a phone call from our D.C. early intervention specialist. She visited our home, patiently outlined the benefits of early intervening strategies, explained services that were available for our son, and connected us to the appropriate service providers. In the days to come, we were assigned therapists and specialists—most of whom provided services within our home. In the ensuing months, our little bundle flourished as he received needed therapies that contributed to his achieving and surpassing age-adjusted milestones. Through those early years, we felt that we were part of a team that enabled us to navigate the labyrinth of services, and connect us to a network of organizations and other families.
Now a second-grader, our son is flourishing at school and in life. He loves giving high-fives to his teachers when he correctly answers questions, and playing with friends on the playground. At home, he enjoys riding his bike, dancing to music, or curling up with a favorite book. We feel very fortunate that our son and our family were able to benefit, from engagement with early childhood intervention.
While working for the North Carolina Infant Toddler Program I have had many opportunities to work with individuals with disabilities and their families. On a daily basis I evaluate, plan and implement assessment tools and strategies to help children achieve the best possible day to day routines and outcomes. I chose the field of early intervention because my family is a living example of the positive impacts early intervention can have on a child and their family.
My older brother, Brandon, was born at 26 weeks gestational age and weighed 2lbs 4oz. The doctors told my family he would probably never walk on his own and would have limited learning abilities. With the support of early intervention, he was able to overcome those challenges early on. Before starting school he was running around effortlessly and demonstrating many early literacy concepts. Brandon has continued to impress and surprise us year after year. He will turn 31 this October and has graduated college, gotten married and has a successful career in aviation. There is no doubt in my mind that early intervention played a vital role in my brother’s success story.
I work in early intervention to support children and families similar to my own so that each of them can have their own success story. I enjoy advocating for and helping families navigate the unfamiliar territory of early intervention and having a child with a developmental delay or disability. Birth through three is an important age for a child’s growth and development so the earlier we start helping young children and their families, the better the outcome!