I'm finally waking up from my turkey induced coma and realized that I haven't written about the Preemies Today conference that I attended last month. Oy veh!
In mid-November, I attended a parent a provider conference entitled, "Navigating the Journey through Childhood." The event was held by Preemies Today, which is led by Executive Director, Marybeth Hazelgrove.
I enjoyed spending an entire day with other preemie moms, including Rebecca Wood, and listening to their preemie blessing stories. Networking with others who "get it" was both valuable and therapeutic. And, it was nice to be away from home in a solo capacity -- without an overtired toddler, diaper bag, or stroller for almost an entire day.
Below are a few notes from a few of the presentations I attended.
Joseph Scafidi, DO, a board-certified child Neurologist at Children's Medical Center in Washington, D.C., was the opening general session speaker. He provided an understanding of normal development and how premature birth can impact social, cognitive (learning and memory), sensory, and motor development.
In addition, Dr. Scafidi outlined the signs of developmental delays and discussed associated medical conditions, such as low-tone, poor feeding, lethargy/irritability, severe illness, seizures, and chronic lung disease. Dr. Scadafi also explained that the body is a "whole system" -- and one system can influence others.
Navigating the Transition from Early Intervention to Kindergarten
I found this panel presentation to be very helpful, particularly given that my preemie-toddler will age out of our county's Early Intervention program in just one year.
This presentation provided an overview of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (more commonly referred to as "IDEA"), the Infant and Toddler Connection of Fairfax-Falls Church, and its eligibility criteria.
The Infant and Toddler Connection of Fairfax-Falls Church provides services, with a parent or caregiver, in the infant or toddler's natural environment, such as home, playground, or child care facility under Part C of IDEA.
For example, we receive speech therapy services through the county. Coaching is provided to help parents, caregivers, and teachers in developing skills and strategies to support the infant or toddler's on-going development. Some families may have fees for services.
Children are no longer eligible Early Intervention when they turn three years old and services end the day before their third birthday. In Virginia, children may leave Early Intervention and enter the public school system if they turn two years old by September 30th of that school year and are found eligible for special education services.
I am not sure if Emily will qualify for services through the Fairfax County Public School system. However, I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the process that is used to transition out of Early Intervention and into programs offered through our county's school system, under Part B of IDEA.
The program offered through the Fairfax County Public School system is educational-based and child focused. Services are provided in the least restrictive environment. Accordingly, they may be provided in a natural or educational environment. All services on an Individualized Education Plan are provided at no cost.
Surviving to Thriving as a Preemie Parent
I enjoyed the closing general session, led by Gigi Khonyongwa-Fernandez. Gigi was the most energetic and personable speaker I heard. As a mother of a preemie, Gigi knows first-hand the triumphs and tribulations that many preemie parents encounter.
In fact, Gigi turned her own preemie experience into something positive and inspirational. She's a Professional Life Coach and the Founder of Families Blossoming LLC, a unique business specializing in providing coach-based emotional support and other related service to preemie and special needs parents.
Her interactive presentation allowed participants to better understand and reflect on the concept that what we expect is not always what occurs. She also encouraged preemie parents to document large and small parenting achievements, and reflect on their personal parenting perspectives.
Gigi's enthusiasm for life was contagious; I will not forget her enjoyable presentation.
I find that we are a very normal preemie family experiencing very normal stuff. Emily is achieving milestones at her own pace. When she has learned a new skill she REALLY has really mastered it. Until next time, count your blessings, we do each and every day!