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A step ahead in early intervention

Program helps young children thrive

A Step Ahead in Pierce County provides instructional and fun activities for children. Photo credit: Johnson Family

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Parents of very young special-needs children often feel overwhelmed working with their little ones.

"It can be very isolating and confusing," wrote Taylor Johnson, in an email.

The wife of a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier, Taylor, and her husband have two young special-needs children.

To help them, the Johnsons were referred by the Madigan Army Medical Center to A Step Ahead in Pierce County (ASAPC).

A nonprofit, A Step Ahead in Pierce County was founded 17 years ago to support the families of infants and toddlers with special needs. Approximately 15 percent of the over 700 children it serves per year are military related.

"I think the biggest way our children and we have been helped is through ASAPC's teaching us as parents how to best help and accommodate them," she continued, "and that ASAPC walks with you and shows you that you are not alone."

This aligns perfectly with ASAPC's mission.

"Just as no two children are the same, developmental delays often manifest in various ways," said Michelle Smith, ASAPC's fund development and communications officer. "We're compassionately committed to improving the development of all infants and toddlers in South Pierce County from birth to age 3."

That commitment begins with a multi-disciplinary team comprised of occupational and speech therapists, special educators, social workers, early childhood mental health specialists and family resource coordinators.

The Step Ahead team provides services to help children improve their developmental skills. These are provided at the child's home or childcare facility using activities that are fun, practical and effective.

Smith also pointed out that a recent study shows that for every $1 spent on early intervention services, $17 is saved in future costs.

"Within a month of being referred, ASAPC was at our house evaluating our son," continued Johnson, "and within a few weeks we started receiving early intervention in our home."

Along with the in-home activities, ASAPC offers an assortment of social events throughout the year to give children opportunities to play with peers and to practice skills in places like parks, indoor playgrounds, and the Children's Museum.

"The various fieldtrips and activities allow you to interact with other parents, and that helps," added Johnson.

In addition to its core services, ASAPC is the only agency in the region which offers specialized early intervention care to any infant or toddler in foster care.

"Our BOOST Program does not require children to have a developmental delay but is there to help support both the child and the foster parent in the difficult transition out of traumatic abuse and into safety," explained Smith.

Many of ASAPC's services are reimbursed by federal, state and local dollars, and the agency's CARES Funds helps to cover uncompensated costs.

"If you have any concerns about your child, don't hesitate to contact A Step Ahead," concluded Johnson.

"A Step Ahead truly cares about each child and family."

For more information about A Step Ahead in Pierce County, visit:

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