Today I am sharing a guest post written by my friend and colleague Ali Schmeder-Cummins. Ali is involved in the fight for Early Intervention programs in Illinois. 

For those of you who don’t know about Early Intervention (EI), it is a federally mandated and state-run program to offer services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and special education to children three years old and younger. The idea behind EI is to reach children who are showing signs of delays and challenges as early as possible, which as has be demonstrated to give them the best chance of success in the future. 

Esmé has received EI therapies since she was 2 1/2 months old. The therapists we’ve met through EI and the therapies they provide have absolutely changed the course of Esmé’s life. They have taught me how how to be a better mother to Esmé…because properly caring for a child like Esmé is not something that can be done without support. They have been advocates for my child. They’ve supported us as we tried new things with Esmé. They have listened while I cried, worried, complained…and then helped me find solutions to the problems. They have been responsible for helping with so many of her gains. And for helping us keep her safe: In Esmé’s early months her EI speech therapist was the only member of her care team who recognized the signs of the aspiration that would almost claim her life.

Our EI Team was absolutely essential to laying the groundwork for all of the gains Esmé has been making. I do not know what we would have done without them.

In Illinois, as Ali will explain below, EI is under threat. I will let her tell you more about her experience:

When my daughter was two months old, we learned that she had hypotonia — low muscle tone.  I didn’t know what this diagnosis meant for her future. Would she walk?  Would she ever run? Would I ever get to watch her dance?  Her doctors had no answers.  They offered no promises about her future. But the one thing they all felt strongly about was that she would benefit tremendously from Early Intervention (EI).  Early Intervention provides therapy services go babies and toddlers with disabilities and delays.

Because of EI, my daughter went from a four month old who was unable to lift her head off of the floor to a five month old who could roll over.  She went from being unable to sit go crawling.  She went from being unable to stand to walking.  She went from a 40% gross motor delay that prevented her from being in the age appropriate classroom at day care to blending in almost effortlessly with her peers on the playground.  She went from a baby with so many obstacles stacked against her to a little girl with so many possibilities and opportunities within her reach. Because of Early Intervention, my daughter soared go heights we never even imagined.

Unfortunately, for more than 90 days, the state of Illinois has lacked a budget.  This budget impasse has put a strain on many state programs — especially Early Intervention.

During this time, EI providers have been forced to wait three months to receive  payments for work they have already done. Some EI providers have closed their doors and children are losing the therapy services they so desperately need.

Currently, providers are being paid because the courts have told the state they are required to do so as long as there is money in the account. But, without a fully funded budget for this fiscal year, our program is on borrowed time and at risk of payments stopping at any time.

Our children are suffering and sacrificing due to political actions and inactions. Please share this image if you stand with the children of Illinois in demanding a fair and fully funded budget for Early Intervention is passed, so our babies can soar over their obstacles and go and reach their full potential.

Read Ali’s full blog post on EI in Illinois here.

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