Meet Renna

SOH Renna

Renna is a sweet four-year old who is curious about the world around her. However, she was not reaching key milestones typical for a child her age. Renna’s mother, Brenda, turned to Easterseals Make the First Five Count program for support. The first step was completing the free developmental screening. The results demonstrated a developmental delay in Renna, so her family was referred to a developmental pediatrician for a full evaluation. Renna was diagnosed with PITT Hopkins Syndrome, a rare genetic neurological disease that causes children to experience delays in meeting developmental milestones, and affects speech and motor planning. Renna was quickly enrolled in early intervention services and outpatient therapy, but was on a waiting list for behavioral services.

Easterseals offered Supplemental Developmental Support to the family. It is an added feature of Make the First Five Count (MTFFC) that serves children identified as having developmental delay who are waiting for further evaluation or enrollment in services. Families are provided up to eight weeks of individualized learning sessions with a child development specialist. Parents are educated about their child’s development and given activities to support their child based on needs identified by the MTFFC screening. Each week, parents meet virtually to discuss the effect the interventions are having, review progress and learn new activities/strategies.

In this case, Brenda received assistance in understanding the nuances of her daughter’s diagnosis as well as strategies to support her development. For example, Renna was not engaging in imitation activities, an important developmental milestone, so the child development specialist taught Brenda strategies on modeling and building joint attention using basic imitation skills, like tapping the table, clapping hands and waving. Brenda was instructed to perform the skills herself and then use hand-over-hand modeling with Renna to build engagement and attention. Each week, she was given new activities to do. It wasn’t long before Renna was doing basic imitations.

Brenda was also struggling to get Renna to use her assistive technology communication tablet, so she was advised to give Renna two choices for snacks, one preferred and one not preferred. The goal was to engage Renna in scanning items, selecting a preference and communicating her choice by pointing to it on the device. These are foundational skills that progressively build one on the other and lead to the attainment of other developmental milestones.

“Before Make the First Five Count, I was discouraged with my 3-year-old's lack of abilities,” states Brenda. “I was expecting her to be able to complete tasks that she was not capable of because she hadn't mastered the multiple small tasks that build upon each other. Melissa [the child development specialist] has been so helpful at opening my eyes to what Renna is actually doing and how to help her progress and master even more!”

Today, Brenda proudly shared updates on the many new and exciting things Renna is doing. She is encouraged by the new ways Renna is learning from her environment and making gains in her development.

Make the First Five Count offers free developmental screenings and supplemental support to children age five and under; resources and educational workshops for parents; and training for childcare providers. The goal is to give children at risk for developmental delays, disabilities or autism the right support they need to be school-ready and build a foundation for a lifetime of learning.

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