On March 28th, board members of NWDSA and family members will be traveling to Salem for a fun- and info-filled field trip. This is an important opportunity for local policy makers to hear from families. We will be sharing talking points on advocacy issues ranging from preschool and kindergarten access to employment for adults with developmental disabilities. To learn more about the event, click here!
The following is a letter sent by NWDSA to policy makers in Salem, along with a booklet detailing the importance of Early Intervention in the lives of children and families.
NWDSA works with over 1,400 families in Oregon and SW Washington who have a child with a significant disability. There is much discussion at the state level about the importance of early education, particularly kindergarten readiness. We are puzzled by the continued erosion of services for children through age five in Oregon.
Through families connected to NWDSA, we get a clear picture of just how much services have been reduced over time. Contrast Eleanor Bailey’s experience in 1992 (see cover of book) with services now. Eleanor had three home visits a week from different specialists and her parents benefited from meeting other families at a weekly parent support group. When Eleanor was ready to enter school, her family was given three different preschool options in their community. They chose an inclusive community preschool which was funded by Early Intervention. Specialists supported the staff at the preschool and transportation was provided.
Fast forward to 2012-- parents of children three and under receive visits as infrequently as once a month. Multnomah County offers weekly one-hour visits with only one specialist; this is considered a high level of support in comparison to other programs. By the age of three, some children still have no preschool placement. Head Start serves a small minority but with minimal consult from specialists. Some parents are able to find inclusive preschools and get an average of 30 minutes consult with the staff. Finding these inclusive preschools is difficult and the expense is a barrier. Preschools are increasingly reluctant to accept our children, as they don’t have a good level of access to the skills and support needed from Early Intervention professionals.
Our childrens’ civil and human rights are being ignored, as well as the dreams we all have for our children to belong. We would like to see a real investment in the valuable resource of Early Intervention. We would like to trust that statements made at policy level regarding the needs of all children have our childrens’ needs in mind as well.
Does anyone truly think that the needs of a child with Down syndrome and their family can be met with just one hour a week of service? We are experts on our lives and our families and know our history. We will be bringing a group of families to the capital on March 28th, 2013. We are happy to be a resource and give further information if you have any questions.
Angela Jarvis-Holland & NWDSA Board