Savannah is like many children her age – the active 3-year-old loves animals, likes to color and enjoys jumping on her trampoline. However, she started life with some big challenges that contributed to her missing key developmental milestones early in life.
Through support from Little Learners, a program of High Country Early Intervention, Savannah has made significant progress in her speech, her ability to focus and her interactions with others.
Little Learners is a free in-home program that promotes the overall development for those children who have mild to moderate delays and do not qualify for early intervention services or preschool special education services. Parents and staff, in consultation with licensed therapists, develop activities to practice during home visits and in-between visits.
The home visitation program brings together family culture and knowledge of parents with the expertise of staff to help children meet their developmental milestones. Regular playgroups of Little Learners participants help children gain key socialization skills while parents and caregivers find support by getting to know others with similar challenges.
The First Things First Yavapai Regional Partnership Council funds the program through its Family Support for Children with Special Needs Strategy.
Savannah was born substance exposed, which contributed to her having various delays in her development. Her grandparents, who live in Camp Verde, assumed custody of Savannah when she was 6 months old.
“She walked late. She talked late. And she was missing other milestones. So we knew we needed help,” said Savannah’s grandmother, Sue, who heard about Little Learners through PBS texts with tips on parenting.
Savannah was almost 2 when she enrolled in the Little Learners program. She struggled with eye contact with others, she rarely smiled or laughed.
Because Savannah started the program during the pandemic, her family received services at the High Country Early Intervention office in Cottonwood rather than in their home. At a time when many agencies either closed down or moved everything to virtual services, Sue was grateful to be able to access needed services in-person in a safe way following health protocols.
At home, Sue began to implement what she was learning. She helped Savannah put together puzzles and do other activities to encourage stronger hand-eye coordination.
When it was safe to do so, Savannah began participating in weekly play groups. Savannah especially enjoyed the music time in these groups. She learned to keep rhythm and would sometimes want to sing the same song over and over again, laughing with delight with every chorus.
When school starts again in the fall, Savannah will be able to attend preschool, where services to assist her will be available. However, over the summer months, Savannah will continue to get the benefit of the Little Learners program so she will be better prepared for school and for life.
“Savannah is able to pay attention so much better now,” Sue said. “She gives more eye contact and smiles, and responds when we talk to her. She still needs help with her speech, but she has made some great improvements.”