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Early Childhood Intervention Program Receives National Achievement Award


October 5, 2012          


Early Childhood Intervention Program Receives National Achievement Award


The Department of Health Services, gathered last week at the department’s new headquarters in Great River to congratulate staff of the Division of Services for Children with Special Needs for earning a National Achievement Award for its innovative program entitled “Developing Parent Competence and Confidence: Empowering Early Intervention Parents.”


The program was rolled out last year by the department’s the Early Intervention staff, which focuses on children from birth to three years of age. The division currently provides services to about 1,700 children in this age group; 90 percent of those services are provided in the home.


The new program employs what is known in the field of education as the “Routine-Based Intervention” model, an evidence-based model that is consistent with a goal of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA),  “to include outcomes that address the family’s well-being and not only outcomes designed to benefit the child’s development.”  


Routine-based intervention engages parents and caregivers by offering them the tools and techniques that will enable their children to participate in daily activities within their natural environment. It is anticipated that if children have more opportunities to practice with their parents or caregivers, as well as their therapists, they will acquire skills more quickly and reduce their need for long-term services.


The following scenario is an example of how routine-based intervention might take place. (The characters are fictitious.) Karen, a speech therapist, visits the home of two-year-old Michael. Karen and Michael’s mom, Margie, discuss creative ways to make bath time fun while working on Michael’s communication and social skills. Karen learns that Michael and Margie usually listen to music during bath time. By encouraging Margie and Michael to sing along to the music, Karen shows Margie how to give Michael the opportunity to vocalize, take turns and imitate different sounds and words. Then, as Margie washes Michael’s eyes, nose, mouth, hands and legs, Karen encourages her to name and point to parts of the body and to ask Michael to “blink” his eyes, “sniff” with his nose, and “wave” his hands. This routine addresses many different social-communication goals for Michael while fostering an enjoyable interaction between mother and child.


“The routine-based intervention model aligns with what we already know about child development,” said Dr. James Tomarken, Commissioner of Health Services. “This method promotes parents’ confidence, competence and expectations by taking advantage of already existing community opportunities and allowing children who do have special needs to become active members of their families and communities.”


To date, the Department of Health Services has trained over 600 therapists to apply this parent-coaching model. After completing the training, over 70 percent of the service providers reported that their method of providing early intervention service would change as a result of the training.


Parents, who were recently offered a survey to assess their perceptions of routine-based intervention, report they feel more confident and competent in promoting their child’s learning and development after acquiring new ways to interact with their children.


An electronic newsletter, Possibilities, is an additional tool that was developed by the department to encourage parents to engage in routine-based intervention with their children. It is available to all on the Suffolk County website.


The National Association of Counties was founded in 1935 to provide essential services to the nation’s 3,068 counties. The annual Achievement Award program, begun in 1970, recognizes innovative county government programs. Suffolk County earned three NACo awards this year. For more information visit

Improving Outcomes for Children with Special Needs: Commissioner of Health Services James Tomarken, MD, MPH, MBA, MSW, (center) and Deputy Commissioner of Health Services Barry Paul (far right), recently presented National Achievement Award to staff from the Division of Services for Children with Special Needs. Accepting the award, from left, are Sheila Ventrice of Patchogue, Barbara Falkman of East Islip and Division Director Ellen Ellis of Smithtown. 05

Categories: Health


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