Published On: April 4, 2022

Easterseals Crossroads is a First Steps provider of early intervention services for families with babies and young children with developmental delays or disabilities. Services may include speech therapy, ​developmental therapy, physical therapy or occupational therapy based on the needs of the child. Early intervention services can have a significant, positive outcome for babies and young children in their ability to learn new skills and overcome challenges.

Meet Leann Faust – Manager, Early Intervention Services at Easterseals Crossroads

Leann began providing early intervention services through First Steps the  first year after graduating with her master’s degree in speech language pathology.  She was contracted by a local hospital to provide speech language therapy services for First Steps clients in their homes.  Throughout the last two decades, she has been involved with First Steps Early Intervention services mostly as an ongoing provider, but she also had a few years where she served PRN (as needed) on the First Steps ED Team (Eligibility Determination), helping to complete evaluations for the birth-2 population First Steps serves.  

The four most frequently needed services that we provide as an agency are physical therapy, speech therapy (this is the same as language therapy or speech/language therapy), occupational therapy and developmental therapy. Easterseals Crossroads also has the only augmentative communication (assistive technology) specialist enrolled in First Steps on staff. There’s actually a much longer list of services that First Steps can provide as well, including audiology, family education, diagnostic medical services, nursing services, psychological services, social work services, nutrition services and vision services,” said Leann.

According to Leann, the benefits of early intervention are tremendous. Decades of research show that children’s earliest experiences play a critical role in brain development. Brains develop at the most rapid rate from birth to age three, and are also the most “plastic” or changeable in these first few years. Providing high quality early intervention can often reduce the amount of intervention a child will need later in life.  

First Steps services typically take place in the child’s natural environment, which is generally at home and sometimes at daycare. The services provided are to help educate and empower the parents with strategies they can use to help their child advance throughout their daily routines and ways they interact on a daily basis.  

baby with mom on telehealth appointmentAccessing First Steps

First Steps is Indiana’s state wide system providing early intervention services for children from birth through their third birthday. Families are often referred by their doctor, social service professionals or other medical professionals due to concerns. However, families can also self-refer if they have concerns about delays.

In Marion, Hamilton and Tipton County, families can call or visit  where they will be connected with an intake coordinator who will help schedule an initial assessment. This service is paid for by First Steps. If the evaluation determines that there is a need for ongoing services, the family will be assigned a service coordinator, who is their contact to help them with coordinating all of the services they may need. This person takes care of the paperwork side of things, writing a plan with goals for the child/family based on information from the assessment and also transitioning them to other services after age 3.   

After a child is assessed and if services are recommended, the families are presented with agencies to choose from. The providers who will come to provide ongoing services all have to be connected through an agency. Easterseals Crossroads provides physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and/or developmental therapists to provide these services. Our staff at Easterseals Crossroads have experience serving children with diverse diagnoses including autism/ASD, tracheotomies, torticollis, sensory integration disorders, Down syndrome, feeding difficulties, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, high and low muscle tone, Erb’s Palsy, chromosomal abnormalities, premature births and prenatal drug exposure.

“Home based early intervention is often helping families identify their strengths and then coming up with manageable ideas and strategies that can be easily implemented throughout their days and routines to help their child progress and grow. Early intervention providers are a support to the family, and can make such a big difference in empowering parents to realize they have the tools to help their child. It can also help with getting families additional resources that may be available at no cost but that the families may not even realize are options,” said Leann.

What Happens when a Child Turns Three

In Indiana, a child’s local school system will provide services after a child turns three if they still are eligible for services. When a child is enrolled in First Steps, this is one of the biggest helps that the service coordinator provides. They make sure the family has filled out any required paperwork, the child is re-evaluated by the local school system and then if the child is still in need of services, all of the required paperwork will be completed with the family prior to the child turning three so they can begin receiving those services as soon as First Steps services have ended.  

Due to our comprehensive approach, Easterseals Crossroads is able to provide a smooth and easy transition from First Steps to continued outpatient therapies in our clinical settings. Our agency is advised by our medical director, Charles Dietzen, M.D., a board-certified physiatrist specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. We can offer continued services in our outpatient clinical settings after the child turns three.  Easterseals is an agency that also has access to nutrition, social work and psychology services when needed.  We have an Autism Family Resource Center, which is available for information and support with necessary services, challenging behaviors, navigating finding medical professionals who may have experience with autism or challenging behaviors, and more. We also offer respite services through Parents’ Night Out.  

Ages and Stages Questionnaires

The Ages and Stages Questionnaires, or ASQ for short, is a simple online tool that parents can use if they are concerned about their child being delayed in any of their developmental areas, including gross motor, fine motor, speech and/or language, self-care (e.g., feeding, dressing), cognitive or social skills from birth through age 5. Often doctors will use this tool at visits to help answer questions about what a child may or may not be doing. At Easterseals Crossroads, we are able to give parents free access to use this tool any time they want. If the parent fills this out, they will be emailed recommendations about following up with an evaluation if necessary, as well as information that may help families to work on advancing their child’s skills across developmental areas.