Kathi Humke, Developmental Therapist, Easter Seals Peoria-Bloomington
Every year, more than one million children with unidentified disabilities and developmental delays enter school with learning and health issues that put them far behind their peers and have a lasting, negative effect on their ability to reach their full potential. When children receive the treatment and therapy they need before the age of five, they are ready to learn alongside their peers, build lifelong skills, and achieve their dreams.
Providing early intervention services in a natural environment supports families in promoting their child’s development, learning, and participation in family and community life. What is a Natural Environment? A Natural Environment is a setting where children live, learn and play. These settings may include the home or community-based settings such as a child care center, library, park, or place of worship. Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that eligible infants and toddler with disabilities receive needed early intervention services in a natural environment, as appropriate.
Natural environments recognize family members and caregivers as the primary influence for nurturing growth, development and learning. They also help families and therapists identify barriers to skill acquisition in the setting in which the child will be using or executing his or her skills.
The child’s home is the most common natural environment. Here, the child can practice daily routines, play, complete household chores, and interact with family members, providing the child with opportunities to practice their skills throughout their day. The home also includes the child’s toys and family things. The therapist might suggest ways to play with the toys they have in the home to support development of a new skill, or have a child practice pulling him or herself up on the couch.
The home environment often includes siblings who can be motivators and peer models in a session. Siblings are generally curious and eager to participate. Siblings can serve as play partners or encourage verbal interaction, taking pride in their part of teaching their younger sibling. Sibling participation in therapy at a young age can even impact career choices in the future.
Community-based settings as a natural environment provide opportunities for gross motor skill practice such as climbing steps and running, and vocabulary development. Providing early intervention services in locations such as day care centers, parks, libraries and places of worship focuses therapy sessions on function and socialization with an indirect benefit of raising awareness of disabilities, promoting friendships, and establishing a support network.
Welcome to Easter Seals
Easter Seals provides exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities and their families have equal opportunity to live, learn, work and play in their communities.
Integrity, Respect, Excellence, Customer Focused, Teamwork