Web Extra: The First Connections program

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ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — For Arkansas kids who’re falling behind developmentally, there’s a statewide initiative that aims to help.

In Arkansas, the grant-based ‘First Connections’ program offers supportive services to families of children from birth to age three, with certain levels of developmental delay.

KNWA Evening Anchor Chelsea Helms spoke with Melissa Stone, director for Division of Developmental Disabilities Services.

In the videos below, Stone will answer common questions about how ‘First Connections’ helps kids who’re struggling to hit milestones.

What is the First Connections program?

First Connections provides support and services for families and their children, birth to age three who have special needs made available through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

What are the benefits of early intervention?

Early Intervention refers to the coordination of services that are recommended based on an assessment by the service coordinator. When a child is developmentally behind, the faster they get the help they need, the more likely they will be able to catch up with others their age.

How does a family know if their child is developmentally behind?

Their pediatrician will typically catch any delays during a child’s well-check visit.

How are children evaluated for the program?

Service coordinators meet with families and other professionals to see what works for the child.

Do parents have to make less than a certain amount of money per year to qualify for services offered through the First Connections program?

No. The Division of Developmental Disabilities Services will not ask how much money a family makes. The program is based on a child’s intellectual needs, not a family’s salary.

How involved should parents be while their child is in the program?

As involved as possible (from a distance while the therapist is working with the child). In order for a child to progress, it’s important the parents encourage and apply what they learned when the therapist isn’t around.

How is the grant money used for the program?

A majority is spent on delivering services to families in need.

Why should families take the time to learn more about the First Connections?

There’s nothing to lose! It could provide peace of mind for families who’re worried their child is developmentally delayed.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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