The Future of Social Media within York Region Early Intervention Services

Jen Norris    November 17, 2014

Organization: York Region Early Intervention
Industry: Government

Early Intervention

For many couples, the words “congratulations, you’re pregnant” are amazing words to hear. The first thing you hope for is to have a healthy happy baby.

I am the proud mother of two children. My youngest son was a happy but very quiet baby. As I took him to his Doctors appointments, I was given pamphlets about all the milestone my child should be reaching. I started to become concerned when he was about 3 months. When we got to our six month checkup, I was seeing so milestones that he wasn’t hitting, as well as some health concerns. We ended up at the Pediatric department as Southlake Hospital. My son was in the hospital for a week and when we were released we were given a pamphlet for Early Intervention Services. The doctor suggested that I call right away as the waiting period to receive services could be rather lengthy.

Interview with Jennifer Norris and her experience prior to her entry in Early Intervention Services.

Early Intervention Services are to help parents:

  • Understand their child’s growth and development through assessment and screening
  • Teach their child new skills
  • Access community programs and resources
  • Reach goals that are important to the well-being of their family and child
  • Participate in parent-child play groups, parent support groups and education workshops

Video of the York Region Early Intervention Services office and the services they provide.

When I spoke with Early Intervention Services, I was told that there was a waiting period for an assessment, then we would then wait for placement. I could feel the panic set in, wondering what would happen if we had to wait up to a year to receive services. However, our services were in place within a few months.

I feel very fortunate to be receiving early intervention and speech and language services for my child. We receive at home services, where an early intervention specialist works with our home daycare provider to develop strategies to assist in gross motor skill and learning development. As well we are eligible to receive speech therapy services.  The Speech Therapist assists parents to develop strategies to help out children develop their sounds. These services are wonderful however, they are limited. Parents are instructed to keep working on the lessons that were taught in the classes until the next round of session come available.

What does the future hold for Early Intervention Services? How does York Region address a growing community base that requires these services? The Children’s Treatment Network is a community partner with York Region Early Intervention Services and has statistics on the usage of services. In 2012/2013 CTN had 5,232 children received services, that’s a 17% increase over the last year. There are 2224 children who are waiting for assessments, 1561 children waiting for services. The average wait time for assessments are 124 days which has increased over last year.

What does a family do while they are waiting for services or the next session? How can parents keep the progress going? In an ideal world the answer would be to hire more staff to provide more services. Although ideal, not realistic. Technology is the answer. The Future for York Region Early Intervention Services is Social Media.

The Children’s Treatment Network of Simcoe York has developed their Family Forum, “a place where families can learn from each other’s experiences and inspire and empower each other by sharing information, tips, comments photos video and stories – along with the tears and laughter that come with raising a child with multiple special needs. Their goal is to use social media to help families connect to the information and resources they need to help their kids reach their full potential” Children’s Treatment Network of Simcoe York website

I recently received a survey from York Region Early Intervention Services; wanting to know how I currently receive my communications, how I would like to receive my communication and if I was interested in participating in activities organized by EIS such as blogging, posting on Facebook, webinars, sitting on a committee etc. EIS is also in tune with the changes and they are enhancing their programs as well.

Although, assessing and teaching children new skills will always remain in a face to face setting, there are services that Early Intervention Services could offer parents on line. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if resources were available such as family forums, helpful tips, webinars and videos for families to be part of while they wait for or in between services? For example, if a child has delayed in gross motor skill development, it would be very helpful for a family to be able to read about helpful tips that Early Intervention Services feels would be of benefit to children.

Twitter and Facebook will become the meeting place for families receiving support through Early Intervention Services. Most families have strong support network, however, it would be helpful to have a network of families that are dealing with the same issues.  York Region Early Intervention Services posted 40+ Occupational Therapy Ideas for Kids. Right now, it’s just a post. Perhaps as more people become familiar and comfortable with engaging we will see more suggestions and strategies rather than just “liking” the post.

 

Perhaps the future of social media will also have an impact on how the day to day operations are done. Although, nothing will replace the face to face therapy sessions, webinars or videos may be done and posted on Facebook and twitter for the parental information meetings. There is an opportunity to also post session recaps on line so parents can refer to the material after a session is completed or prepare for the next session.

With more demands on social services, it is crucial to Early Intervention Services to adapt their services to the technology. With the utilization of technology and Social Media it may increase the parental engagement and involvement, improve client feedback, create new strategies for children and perhaps change in how workshops and parental group are administered.

Lessons Learned:

Nothing can replace the face to face therapy but the use of social media will allow families who are either waiting for or in between services to be involved with other like families. With information being posted on line families have access to invaluable resources from both Early Intervention Services and other families.

Web References:

York Region Early Intervention Services
York Region District School Board
York Region Early Intervention Services Facebook
Children’s Treatment Network

Submitted By: Jennifer Norris – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.
To contact the author of this entry please email: jennorris52@hotmail.com

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