The following blog is a cross-post from the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education. The blog is written by Kelly Coyne, the proud mom of 9.5 year-old twin girls in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
My name is Kelly and I am the proud mom of 9.5 year-old twin girls. They are happy, healthy and growing!
It wasn’t always this way. They were born premature. Their birth weights were 3.02 pounds and 3.15 pounds. Megan did a 3 week neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay and Mackenzie 2.5 months. Upon discharge the nurse said, “We called Early Intervention (EI) to come and work with you and the girls.” I was in such a haze; I said, “Ok, great.”
A week later, after our appointment had been confirmed, four people showed up at my house – an occupational therapist, physical therapist, Developmental Specialist, and Director of my local center. They explained the program to me and answered all my questions. We had a long road to get the girls to where they should be. Each week my team would come and work with me, the girls, and my husband. They helped us read cues, strategize sleep problems, and showed us exercises we needed to help the girls grow. We had many, many appointments with the doctors that EI helped me with. We were with the program for a full three years. As I got more comfortable and more involved with each session, I was asked to participate in a parent program for parents. I attended the seminar by way of the Parent Leadership Project (PLP) in conjunction with Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). It was life changing for me.
I met amazing people, heard profound stories and felt like I wasn’t by myself in this. After attending I wondered if every family getting EI or not could have a feeling like I had at the seminar – to feel included, empowered, and ready to do what needed to be done. With help from the PLP, I started speaking at public hearings, EI staff meetings and trainings, and other venues. I shared my story with the people that needed to hear it most. As time progressed, I was appointed to the Massachusetts Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC) as a representative for Boston. This was so meaningful for me. I could connect with EI providers, doctors, DPH staff members, and other parents and help other families in my community. Soon my time was over as an ICC rep, and from there I have attended and helped many other families with Individualized Education Programs (IEP), special education laws, placements and other issues surrounding special needs and education. I have become a better mom, advocate and community member as a direct result of my involvement with Early Intervention, PLP and DPH. I use the skills I learned from PLP to advocate for my daughter, now in 3rd grade. I also use the skills Early Intervention taught me when I meet with doctors and in my personal life and business life. I am forever grateful to the EI staff who believed in my family and me.
Now, my children attend a charter school in the City of Boston. My daughter, who is in an inclusion classroom, is doing amazing! She can self advocate for her needs and loves school. The school works with me, her doctors, and psychologists so we can all agree on her needs for the classroom. Her twin sister also attends the same charter school. She is doing amazing as well! She sings in the choir, plays baseball and has a lot of friends. She is known as the social butterfly. Looking at her and back at her early days, I can’t help but be proud and grateful that this preemie girl is thriving! At one time everything was a struggle for her, and now it comes with such ease. This is all because of Early Intervention.
“Now and Then, An Early Intervention Story” by Kelly Coyne.