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Terisa Ashofteh, a physical therapist, evaluates 9-month old Gnaeus Poulin in the family’s home on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. Jennifer Poulin scheduled the evaluation for her son with the Early Intervention section of the Educational and Developmental Intervention Services after she realized he wasn’t “doing things he should be doing.”

Terisa Ashofteh, a physical therapist, evaluates 9-month old Gnaeus Poulin in the family’s home on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. Jennifer Poulin scheduled the evaluation for her son with the Early Intervention section of the Educational and Developmental Intervention Services after she realized he wasn’t “doing things he should be doing.” (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Jennifer Poulin noticed something was not quite right with her 9-month-old son, Gnaeus — he wasn’t “doing things he should be doing,” she said.

While some parents don’t know where to begin when they suspect developmental problems in their children, Jennifer and husband Air Force Staff Sgt. Ken Poulin knew exactly who to call: the Early Intervention section at the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa’s Educational and Developmental Intervention Services office on Kadena Air Base.

The Poulins have experience with the service. Their 4-year-old daughter, Ashley, has Down syndrome and was evaluated and helped through the program.

The goal of Early Intervention is to help parents learn about their children’s developmental delays and help the child reach his or her potential, according to Janet Mease, Early Intervention division supervisor.

The section — which includes speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, social workers, early childhood special educators, community health nurses and family service coordinators — works with children from birth to 3 years of age.

Getting children screened by the Early Intervention section is easy. Parents simply can call the office, Mease said. Once a call is received, a family service coordinator arranges an intake interview and then schedules an in-home evaluation of the child.

For a child to be deemed eligible for the program, Mease said, he or she must demonstrate at least a 25 percent delay in one area, or a 20 percent delay in multiple areas. The skills tested during the evaluation are personal/social, adaptive, motor, communication and cognitive. Toys are used to evaluate the skills and parents are asked questions to gather information on routines and how they feel the child is developing.

Catching problems early is key, Mease said.

“We know from research that a whole lot goes on in development from birth to 3 years old,” she said. “The earlier we recognize a delay, the sooner we can help the child catch up or develop a coping or alternative strategy and help the family come up with strategies.”

If a child does show delays that fit the programs’ guidelines, staff members work with the family to come up with a service plan, Mease said.

“We want to figure out what it is that the family needs so they can do things they could do if the child didn’t have a delay,” she said.

Even though some parents fear their child may be labeled through participation in the program, Mease said it’s important they make the call anyway.

“It’s a scary process when you begin to believe that something is not quite right with your child and then have us come out and affirm that,” she said. “But a vast majority of parents say this is a program that builds on child and family strengths.”

For more information on Early Intervention services, or to arrange an evaluation, call DSN 634-2747. For more information on child development and milestones children should reach by certain ages, visit the Center for Disease Control's Act Early Web site.


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