University of Alabama Creates Free Program to Help Children With Disabilities and Developmental Delays

photo credit: ~Rich Johnson~ The Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida’s Step Up for Down Syndrome via photopin (license)

Most would agree that parenting, though joyous, isn’t an easy undertaking. Parenting children with disabilities can be even more difficult at times. That’s why professionals at the University of Alabama, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, are offering support to families of young children with disabilities or developmental delays free of cost through a new early intervention program, called EI@UA, funded through the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.

“EI@UA is an early intervention program through Alabama’s Early Intervention System that provides special education and related services to infants and toddlers under the age of 3 and their families,” said Dr. Kimberly Tomeny, program director of EI@UA and a clinical assistant professor of special education and multiple abilities.

Tomeny said the program works by partnering with families of children who need their services to support them in their everyday lives and routines. They do this by determining the family’s specific goals for their children or the family as a whole and work to help them achieve those goals.

“If a parent has concerns about their child talking, for example, we would work with them within the context of their routines like family meals, diaper changes, bath time and outings,” Tomeny said. “We talk about strategies they can use regularly to support the child and family within that routine.”

“We provide intervention that addresses the child’s overall development, not just one specific developmental area,” she said.

The team consists of professionals from various backgrounds such as early childhood special education, speech-language pathology and physical therapy. The primary interventionists partner with families to develop goals and implement strategies that help the child function in the family’s routines, such as mealtimes or getting dressed.

“Parents or caregivers are with the children regularly, and it’s really beneficial for them to be the ones to implement the strategies that we jointly come up with,” Tomeny said. “It really is a collaborative process, and the goal is to support children and families during the many hours that the interventionist is not with them throughout the week.”

Anyone can make a referral to UA’s early intervention program. If parents, pediatricians or other caregivers or professionals have a concern about a child under the age of 3, they can contact EI@UA to find out if the child is eligible for services.

Currently, all services are being administered remotely through Zoom.

EI@UA can be reached by email at earlyintervention@ua.edu or by phone at (205) 348-4714. The program’s hours are flexible as needed. For more information, visit EI@UA’s website.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the University of Alabama website.

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