Early Intervention Services With Achieva
New Mommy Pittsburgh magazine recently had an opportunity to talk with Sharon Richards, Achieva’s Vice President of Early Intervention, to learn more about their mission to help and support children age 0-3 who are born with a diagnosis or experience a delay in their development. Achieva Early Intervention has supported thousands of families over the past 45 years, is a trusted name in the early intervention community, and is one of only two non-profit providers of early intervention in Allegheny County. Services are provided at no cost to families.
This is Part 2 of our two-part series. View Part 1.
Infant Massage Classes Help Parents Connect With Baby
One way in which Achieva Early Intervention seeks to connect to new moms is through their free infant massage classes. Touch is a very powerful element in human bonding, and verbal and non-verbal communication are important elements of bonding. In addition, infant massage can help baby sleep better, calm fussiness and ease tummy troubles in addition to improving parents’ bond with baby.1
Sharon Richards, Achieva’s Vice President of Early Intervention, takes great pride in this new initiative. “Two years ago, we had the opportunity in Allegheny County to train 27 therapists in infant massage. I was one of the ones who were trained to do that, and my connection now to the community is through the creation of Achieva Early Intervention’s infant massage classes.”
Follow Achieva Early Intervention on Facebook and Instagram to find a free infant massage class. It’s not necessarily about the massage as much as it is about paying attention to communication: non-verbal communication, paying attention to your connectedness, and increasing your confidence and internal competency in knowing your child’s cues. “Knowing what to do to help soothe (your baby), knowing what’s going right and what’s not quite right, and instinctively starting to trust your own gut” are just some of the outcomes, explains Richards.
In addition to helping parents with bonding and communication with their baby, the launch of Achieva Early Intervention’s infant massage classes also aids in spreading the word about their expertise in the field of early intervention. “We just want (AEI) to be synonymous with early intervention.” Nevertheless, Richards stresses that the classes are for anyone with an infant 0-3 months, not just those who are concerned about developmental delays. “We are part of the early childhood community. We just happen to specialize in this particular niche. You might need us, you might not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t participate in our infant massage classes.”
Community Partners: Key to Spreading Our Message
Community involvement is key for Achieva Early Intervention in providing education and resources for families and to spread the word that there isn’t any stigma attached to needing early intervention services. “What I’m hopeful for is that with us being in the community we’ll be able to make folks feel less cautious, less anxious,” continues Richards. “You might have to have a diagnosis, you might have to have to qualify, but we take you where you’re at. If I could create a world where people could have access to services without having a diagnosis or name attached to them, that would be one I’d pursue somehow,” adds Richards.
Richards applauds Emily Hayburn, Outreach Coordinator at Achieva Early Intervention for forging relationships with local organizations in the community including Allegheny Health Network, WQED, PBS Kids, Cribs For Kids, Beverly’s Birthdays, and the Carnegie Libraries among others.
Social media is extremely important in spreading their message as well. As a matter of fact, they are partnering with New Mommy Pittsburgh with “Tip Tuesday” educational posts that they are sharing on social media. “That, combined with the partnerships that we have in the community, allows us to get our message out to multiple audiences. If we have a mom who just had a baby and maybe is lacking in some resources, we can point them to events in the community, so she can get the resources she needs. It allows us to create some awareness to what our partners are doing as well,” shares Hayburn.
Follow Achieva Early Intervention on Facebook and Instagram, and check in with New Mommy Pittsburgh on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for Tip Tuesdays and other helpful information for new and expecting parents.
Preschool Readiness Program
Another wonderful benefit of Achieva Early Intervention is their preschool readiness program. Achieva Early Intervention offers this program for children who utilize Achieva Early Intervention services as they prepare for the transition to preschool. These children attend and essentially practice what it’s going to be like in a preschool setting. Richards notes that it is “our objective to have your child learn the routine so when they transition to a preschool, it is a familiar thing for your child. And it doesn’t take six to eight months to get used to it. A child can start absorbing what the teacher has to say from day one.”
The program has gotten high marks from preschool teachers who indicate that it helps shave off about six weeks of the normal time it takes for children to get acclimated to preschool. Instead, the children know the drill walking in the door. In fact, says Richards, “Preschoolers’ success is not necessarily hinged on academic success. It is behavioral and social success: Can I go with the flow? Can I follow directions? Can I independently occupy myself for a short period of time? Can I follow routines? Can I get along with others in my classroom? Those are the kind of things that are indicators of success in those types of settings.”
Currently, it is a once-a-week opportunity, but Richards and team are excited about plans to grow the program to reach the greater community. “We are really trying to move our preschool readiness program into the community as soon as possible. The (current) requirement is that the family must be receiving services from an Achieva Early Intervention therapist. If we expand it into the community, that requirement would be eliminated.”
Contact Achieva Early Intervention with questions about community based programming, including free infant massage classes, at 412.995.5000 or call 1.888.272.7229 (toll free).
For more information on Early Intervention services in Allegheny County, contact the service coordination unit, Alliance for Infants and Toddlers at 412-885-6000 and choose Achieva Early Intervention as your provider. Referrals for early intervention services can be made by parents or guardians. For families in Washington County, please contact Washington County Human Services, 724-229-2620. In Westmoreland County, please contact Westmoreland Casemanagement & Supports, Inc. (WCSI) at (724) 837-1808.
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