“With recent world events, a lot of family dynamics, structure, normalcy, developmental progression has taken a huge hit. Families everywhere have felt it. The Special Needs Community have felt it the most. Our kiddos thrive and rely on daily schedules, therapy, and extracurricular activities. For many families, it has been terribly challenging to homeschool, while trying to work from home, and trying to provide therapy to our kids. We are not therapists. I was hesitant about Telehealth. I thought, there is no way this is going to work. Last week, we had our first session, and it's actually pretty awesome! Far from ideal to have group online, but there were so many great takeaways…Telehealth + PTN's YouTube Channel = Amazing!"
Since the beginning of the Safer at Home order, PTN has come to recognize and value the power of flexibility and adaptability in profound ways. We see this not only through the lens of the children with special needs we serve who are consistently working to improve their flexibility, both literally and figuratively, while constantly adapting to a world that wasn't built for them, but also through the lens of our organizational operations. We were called upon to stretch the limits of what we thought possible in terms of our service delivery and capacity; to expand the depth of our service into the homes of our clients; and to adapt the scope of our work to engage and support parents and caregivers as they become their child's in-home educator and therapist. This is all to ensure that children with and at-risk for developmental delays and disabilities continue to have access to the critical early development and educational services they need to make LA County the best place to LEARN.
As a partner with the Goldhirsh Foundation's LA2050 initiative, PTN is incredibly proud of the ingenuity and creativity that our staff demonstrated to ensure that young children and families continue to have access to the support they need to reach their developmental milestones and early education goals. In alignment with the Safer at Home Order, PTN suspended in-person services in March and while we were able to resume onsite programming at a limited capacity and with additional safety protocols, PTN's Best We Can Be Zero to Three early childhood education team worked hard to develop an extensive catalog of relevant on-line content to support all our early learners, whether at home or in the clinic. PTN's YouTube Channel includes a thoughtfully curated series of videos produced by our Leaps & Bounds Early Intervention staff featuring sing-along songs utilized in the program available on our “Circle Time with Leaps and Bounds" playlist; and a series of videos that utilize common household items such as painter's tape, pillows, step stools, towels and sheets to promote gross motor skill development, physical activity and movement available on our “At-Home Activities for Children," playlist for free for the general public. To date, these playlists have more than 65 videos and nearly 95,000 views!
This innovative approach and quick adaptation of our services was a tremendous benefit to the children and families we serve, and has garnered PTN local and regional recognition. Both NBC7 and Spectrum News 1 highlighted PTN's programming on the evening news.
Since July, PTN has served 252 children ages 18-36 months through its Leaps & Bounds Early Intervention program via tele-intervention and in-person services, 31 children ages 12-36 months with or suspected to have autism enrolled in our Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) program, and 24 infants and children in our Early Head Start (EHS) program. We are on track to meet, if not exceed, our targets in terms of children served, despite a myriad of challenges presented by the current public health crisis. Thus far, program participants continue to demonstrate positive improvements in development across all domains (cognitive, physical, language, and social/emotional). In addition, we provided support services to approximately 300 parents of children enrolled in each of these programs and hosted 13 virtual Parent Support and Education workshops, socials, and orientations in English and Spanish for parents and caregivers. PTN also hosted 13 drive up events offering families critical supplies like diapers and craft kits. One parent recently shared the following:
“The Parent Socials have brought so much joy and have given me an outlet to voice my joys and concerns. It is so nice to just be understood and validated. To hear other parents' stories and hear that I'm not alone in my struggles is like a breath of fresh air. I look forward to these socials every month."
PTN is deeply concerned about the long-term implications this pandemic will have on the developmental trajectory of vulnerable and medically fragile children in our community as the pandemic has only exacerbated health, economic and educational disparities for vulnerable populations. Sadly, studies show that Southern California residents have delayed health-related services such as those offered at PTN and routine wellness visits (where early signs of developmental delays are often first identified) not only because of concerns about exposure to COVID-19, but also due to cost, accessibility, and access. As we emerge from this crisis, we anticipate needing to increase the depth of therapeutic and support services provided to help children recover from developmental setbacks that have taken place during this prolonged disruption in care, and those that are just beginning to seek services.
While there remains much uncertainty about the future in regard to how best to safely resume in-person services, long-term social distancing mandates, and additional impacts of the COVID-19 virus, PTN is clear in its commitment to ensuring that all children and families in need have access to high-quality early intervention and education programs, whether they be virtual or onsite. PTN looks forward to continuing to deliver programs that help young children LEARN.
To learn more about PTN's virtual and in-person programming and ways you can support our organization, please visit us online.