Help Me Grow Early Intervention continues to help children virtually

Help Me Grow Early Intervention continues to help children virtually

Early Intervention is a statewide system that provides coordinated early intervention services to parents of eligible children under the age of 3 with developmental delays or disabilities.


Ingenuity and technology were put into play last spring when the staff at the Help Me Grow Early Intervention program were forced to redesign the way they provide services after the pandemic hit. The program aims to give children with eligible developmental delays the extra services they need to thrive.

Early Intervention service coordinators Amy Burrier and Leslie Chase, employees of OhioGuidestone (formerly Personal and Family Counseling Services), direct the program in collaboration with the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Prior to the pandemic, all services were provided in the families’ homes.

The Help Me Grow Early Intervention program is under the direction of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities while the original Help Me Grow, a program centered on home visits and assisting with parenting, is under the direction of the Ohio Department of Health.

Children age 0-3 with qualifying delays can receive services from the early intervention program at no cost to their families. The program is available to everyone no matter their income level.

“The state just wants to catch every child that needs our help,” Burrier said.

Burrier and Chase each usually carry caseloads of 40-45 children, and currently, about 80 children are receiving services.

Children can be enrolled in the program at any time during the year if a delay is suspected. Every child referred will be offered an evaluation at no cost to determine if they need services.

The evaluation looks at five areas of delays that children may be experiencing including adaptive, speech and language, gross motor skills (like walking), fine motor skills, and social and emotional (which can receive services through the early intervention program).

Burrier and Chase handle all referrals and follow-up.

“We coordinate all the services for the families including the evaluations and ISP (Individual Service Plan) meetings. We help them connect to community resources and coordinate with doctors and hospitals if needed. Our job is to make sure families receive all the services that are needed,” Burrier said.

Those services were provided in the child’s home before the pandemic.

“Service coordination was done in meetings done in the home. For early intervention services like PT (physical therapy) and OT (occupational therapy), developmental specialists were all going into the home working with the families,” Burrier said.

Since the pandemic Zoom meetings have replaced home visits, and through it all, the children are still benefiting.

“The parents are propping up their phones, sitting down on the floor and playing with their kids following instructions by our providers,” Burrier said.

Guidance on best practices was provided by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities in addition to the efforts of the entire EI team, which includes those based at Starlight School. In addition to Burrier and Chase, the team includes Holly Lawver, principal at Starlight School; Kari Abel and Kristi Blick, developmental specialists; Eva McClave, speech and language pathologist; Mary Ellen Valentino, physical therapist; Kelly Burcher, occupational therapist; and Mary Beth Markley, early intervention service coordinator supervisor.

“We did a lot of experimenting and learning what works best for families. What works best for this family might not work best for another family. We had to adjust to individual needs and individual availability,” Burrier said.

There are sometimes barriers the organization must overcome to provide services.

“There are some families without internet services, and we also work with the Amish community and they don’t have the technology,” Burrier said. “What I do a lot of times for families, I will go to the house, set them up with an iPad and then wait in the car or on the porch if it’s nice out and allow the family to utilize our equipment — that way they can continue to get the services.”

When serving those speaking Spanish in the community, Burrier works with an interpreter. “There’s a lot of people involved in that Zoom meeting, and that can become challenging sometimes, but we’ve been very successful with it,” she said.

Sometimes it can be difficult to direct children’s attention away from the phone or device and get them to sit down and do the activities provided virtually, but the EI staff are meeting the challenge.

“Our physical therapist, Mary Ellen Valentino, does an excellent job of setting up her environment so that she can sit and allow parents to watch her and do what she does,” Burrier said. “It’s really awesome to watch her do a visit and get the parents involved with the kids. She has parents follow her lead. I feel she has grown so much in coaching parents and allowing them to help their children. The therapists are all doing a great job.”

The families involved in the EI program are adapting well too.

“They’re talking to us. They’re asking us questions. They’re sharing what their needs are like. All of that is continuing, and it’s working out. We’re still getting referrals and helping children,” Burrier said.

One of the perks of the program is the EI team helps in the transition to public school services when children reach age 3.

“When children are getting close to 3, about 90 days before their third birthday, we are required to have a transition meeting with their local school district, their parents and their EI team,” Burrier said. “We connect the families to the school district, and then they can re-evaluate and decide if the child needs to have further services.”

This service allows for a smooth transition for the family as schools are required to provide educational services for children age 3 and up for children still having concerns.

For more information or to make a referral for services, call 1-800-755-4769 or visit

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