ESU 2’s Early Development Network continues to assist parents and children despite being interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Early Development Network is a voluntary, free service that supports families with children aged 0 to 3 with developmental disabilities.
Service coordinator Jen Vogt said the program’s goal is to provide early intervention and support to children during the first three years of life to improve their ability to develop and learn.
“The help may prevent or decrease the need for special help later,” she said in an email. “The goal of early intervention in Nebraska is to ‘open a window of opportunity’ for families to help their children with special needs develop to their full potential.”
Traditionally, Vogt said providers would do this work at the family’s home, but COVID-19 has forced them to come up with an alternative.
“Currently to keep providers and families safe we are meeting with families virtually with teleconferencing or over the phone,” she said.
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Vogt said service coordinators and providers from The Early Development Network and families have adapted well to the change. Currently, the Fremont Public Schools area is serving over 40 families, according to Vogt. The program is also serving an additional 60 families across its operating area.
“Everyone has been very flexible and understanding during this COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “We are committed to serving our families and providing the services and resources they may need during this time.”
Continuing to support children at a critical age was critical for Vogt and the program. She said taking a break could create obstacles down the road.
“Early intervention helps keep children on a path to making the most of their abilities and skills,” she said. “If there was to be a break in these services it could really affect the children especially when it comes time for them to begin preschool.”
While the initial transition to virtual meetings was an adjustment, she’s proud of the way the network has continued to progress.
“Although meeting with families in a new manner has had its challenges, I’ve found it comforting to be able to still support and connect with families,” she said. “It has helped me to realize how much we all connect and support each other in the work we do, and I find that reassuring for our future support with families.”