The Sorensens are one family that has benefitted from early childhood programs available in the county, including Marion County Early Childhood Intervention Services, Head Start and Parents as Teachers.
Initially, Tania and Wade Sorensen of Hillsboro didn’t realize that their oldest child, Sam, needed speech-language therapy.
“We were first-time parents,” Tania Sorensen said. “We understood his speech, but some other people didn’t always understand him.”
Sorenson said Sam’s daycare/preschool director suggested they consider getting him screened at Marion County Early Intervention Services, which provides free monthly screenings for developmental skills, vision, hearing and speech for children from birth through age 5.
“We’ve always seen in the papers about the screenings and where it’s going to be,” she said.
The Sorensens attended a screening in Peabody. As a result, she said, Sam qualified for Head Start, where he met for 20 minutes twice a week with a language-speech pathologist.
Sorensen said she hadn’t known that children with developmental issues can qualify for Head Start.
“We thought before with Head Start that it was for (teen moms), low income, those kind of things,” she said. “But we didn’t even think about speech.”
Because of their experience with Sam, Sorensen said they recognized their second son also had problems with language and speaking, so they promptly took him to be screened.
“We knew we had options,” she said. “Lucas was able to do two years of Head Start.”
The earlier developmental issues can be identified, the sooner they can be addressed.
“That’s just the story with Lucas,” she said. “We were able to identify it a lot faster.”
In addition to class sessions, Sorensen said Head Start also included activities for parents as well as one-on-one visits with a family advocate.
“You have two in-home meetings with (a family advocate)—one at the beginning of the year and one at the end,” she said. “You work on what kind of goals you want to do throughout the year. Those can be family time or they can be more educational.”
The Sorensen family set multiple goals when Sam and Lucas were in the program.
“We had a goal of trying to have a family game every week,” she said.
The boys also learned to spell their names and to count from one to 30.
“So they can be all over the place,” she said. “It’s kind of what you want to do.”
The Sorensens were involved with Parents as Teachers for all three children. Parents as Teachers targets families with children ages birth to 36 months and gives support and information about their child’s stages of development.
“Sam was probably 2 by the time we got into Parents as Teachers,” Sorensen said. “We’re not in that anymore because you graduate when they’re 3.”
She said they still participate in PAT’s annual trip to the Sedgwick County Zoo in May.
Asked about the advantages with PAT, Sorensen cited several.
“Just the education they give you,” she said. “Especially with your first child, you don’t know all the milestones they should be reaching, and they help you with that.
“If you have questions, they’re more than happy to help you. And if they can’t find the answers, they’ll find somebody that can.”
Sorensen said even when they weren’t able to schedule the home visits because of scheduling conflicts, they took part in the PAT group activities.
“I also think it helps stay-at-home moms to have interaction with other people,” she said. “It’s always nice to have someone come to their house and not have to worry about getting out with the kids.”
Because of her family’s experiences, Sorensen recommends that parents have their children screened by MC Early Intervention Services.
“You may not see something, but the professional might,” she said. “The sooner you can get that resolved, the better the child will be. It’s free, so why not?”