13. Early Intervention: At Home Tools and Supports – Caroline Bencze-Fernandez


Hello and welcome to the If We Knew Then podcast. I’m Stephen Saux

and I’m Lori Saux.

Today we welcome back Early Interventionist and Child Development Specialist, Caroline Bencze-Fernandez. Caroline was a great guest of the podcast who previously explained what Early Intervention was, what to expect and how a Child Development Specialists benefits children from birth to 3 years old. Today we’ll be diving a little bit deeper into the aspects of Early Intervention, what tools parents can use at home and how therapies for children with Down Syndrome have changed over the years. Caroline it’s a pleasure to have you back. Thank you for joining us on the podcast.

You’re welcome thank you for having me.

When we first met you you were one of the therapies we were receiving from regional center along with O. T. and PT and speech and at the time I didn’t really understand what early intervention or you as a early interventionist teacher how that was all going to work out and what your part was because PT physical therapy I know that as an adult %HESITATION T. I can understand that %HESITATION speech I was understand what that is but maybe can talk about how early intervention complements the other services that children may receive yeah this is how I explain to families the government and the child development their best and I sort of monitor all those areas like cognitive the gross motor the fine motor the social measures so I monitoring all those areas but if I feel that the child needs a specialized service then I would refer out you know and then that’s where the P. T. comes in the O. T. but I sort of I’m sort of just think of like a teacher who’s kinda has to go through all the areas of development and kind of work with the family I mean I think the child development is kind of the glue that kinda hopefully keeps everybody on the same track and together I always think to talk about a person should be you know collaborating with all the other therapists the P. G. the O. T. in the speech so that we’re all working together I don’t want to say like a home teacher but you know because to me it’s it’s more also like coaching because I’m also teaching the parents as well you mentioned being the coach you are the coach to teach the parents you’re also kind of the quarterback too if you think of it that just kind of understanding what the child needs and then trying to get that done and it might even be outside of you right and also advocate to help the parents learned advocate for their child and helping them if something’s not feeling right empowering them to say Hey this is your child it’s not feeling right what can we do about it and giving him them the tools to do that because once the child three and they go off to the school district they may need some of those tools because it’s the school district it’s a lot bigger so I think parents need those tools to kind of be able to stand up and advocate for their child and and themselves what kind of tools or advice would you give because this is you know hopefully so rich people who there are some people that aren’t getting that early intervention so if somebody doesn’t have that what what tools what gems would you give those parents are an advice would you give to advocate for their child well I always tell families to really go with their gut feeling and if they’re feeling something’s not right question at you know also always before signing anything always just wait and think about it you know always advocate for time for yourself and for the child to figure out what’s the best route and do a little research I would reach out to people tried to get early intervention if you can I know you’re right your laws your your rights as a as a parent of maybe a child with special needs you know kind of really looking into that as well over the last thirty years do you have any favorite tools that you use to support a child and why are their favorites I do have specific things order back at every age kinda level or every month level so there’s certain things and I always try to tell the family’s wealth number one my Facebook I actually books in general I think books in general everybody should sort of have a mirror a mirror is something simple and easy that I think that you can I used to and you know everybody could use that at home but there are certain ways and things that I I do expressly love let’s stay for babies like I I don’t know if this I answer the question but nesting cups can go a long way and so though that’s sort of been my in my bag always like nesting cups blocks there are things that that that child a child can use and then and then it could grow with them so it’s not just a toy a for this six month old but it could be a toy all the way up nesting cuts could be a two way all the way up to three years old %HESITATION you know so there are certain specific things that I definitely I don’t think they have to have all the fancy light up toys out there I think it’s going back to the basics simple things you know having it nearer blocks are nesting cops box for sure when you say Facebook you’re not talking about sign them up on Facebook you have an actual book right that that has yeah a book of faces I have a couple of blocks with faces and all babies starting at eight all the way up to old toddlers love to look at babies faces and their expressions so in the beginning it’s just the baby looking at a baby smiling or us being sad or whatever just all faces so as as the babies are at when they’re babies they love look at bay pictures as they grow older they’re going to really love to look at %HESITATION YC sad OP’s happy and then it could turn into you know having lots of discussions closer to to you know about what makes you sad what makes you happy so yep that’s a book with different facial expressions as one of them he also mentioned a mirror how can parents use a mirror to help in their child development I love mera played near play well first of all both of you could be in the mirror you could be smiling the baby is definitely gonna be smiling you could do exaggerated facial expressions around nine ten around eight or nine months they should start imitating those facial expressions and doing things like that you could be opening your mouth and then for expressive language it’s beautiful you could be doing I said who’s an ex really exaggerating looking in the mirror and you know having the baby do that too and then the baby then eventually if he’s by himself look in the mirror might start talking to himself in the mirror Hey there’s another baby their rule by and start talking to themselves so a mere I think is always great and many homes have mirrors in the house so you could just use any mayor basically around your house so I do I think I think that goes a long way to nesting cups were another toy or tool you had listed what %HESITATION nesting cups and how can parents use them yes okay so nesting cups are just you know the small cups all the way going down to the big cops %HESITATION and I like those I introduce those even maybe four or five months I just sort of have the baby reach up and tried to grab a Cup they’re working on their stating I work on nesting cups pulling the nesting cups out %HESITATION and then banking the nesting cups together %HESITATION is another developmental milestones so bang bang bang those cuts together %HESITATION and that it’s a great fine motor skill it’s a great cognitive skill %HESITATION it’s you know eventually stacking the cups stockings huge developmental milestone you go and expressive language up up up up and then here’s the turn taking our knocking those cups down to that’s that turn taking back and forth here we go we’re going to go up up up with the cops and then having the baby knocked him down there’s that social emotional that cognitive that cause and effect I think cops go a long way and then even after that they’re gonna have that there’s colors the cops have colors you could introduce the colours then they’re gonna have to learn how to put them back the the look the big one can’t go one the little one not %HESITATION that trial and error like what happened let’s try it again so I just think it goes a long way you could also start eventually you can do some sorting with them putting if it’s a red Cup putting the red blocks in the red Cup in the blue box in the blue Cup so I just I think cops go a long way especially birth to three or you know yeah birth to three basically and you had mentioned that with those cops banging and banging is a milestone what it because as a parent you might be you might attempt to be a stop that banging soda so what is the what is banging as a milestone well first of all holding to object the state in time is great and then being able to figure out %HESITATION if I put it together it makes a noise it’s that cause and effect so it’s like %HESITATION bang bang bang and then it makes a noise so it’s not cause and effect like the baby realizes I could put my hands together and make this noise and then guess what comes after that clapping so it’s like it’s sort of these little steps the teaching all these little things %HESITATION and then hit and you know then you know they may make certain that none closer to a year you know babies usually still like to do the bang bang bang sort of you know find something else to do then we’ll do we’ll re directs that a little bit a lot of my family’s go oh my gosh they’re still banging because it’s such a great thing that they could do they you know they feel empowered that they could do that so that we work on well let’s work on stacking now up up up up %HESITATION things like that so yeah so I know it’s just it’s it’s that because of that fact %HESITATION its lead story banking on a musical toy but they are able to now bang two cups together and make this brilliant noise %HESITATION it’s just it’s it’s a it’s a learning it’s a learning curve %HESITATION learning milestones and and to get a perspective on the foundation that the early intervention crates so you’re starting with %HESITATION the nesting cups and then the banging and then that teachers caught the child cause and effect how does that cause and effect show itself than in the child and then also that empower ment of of being able to create this noise the sound or music it’s empowering the child to feel like they’re able to to do this and it’s a milestone and and he feels good and then eventually that will turn into %HESITATION well if I push this button over here it’ll it’ll be musical you know it and then it’ll lead up to shape story you know like putting a shape into something %HESITATION if I tried this I can’t do that into it these are all little steps leading up to you know puzzle play or you know %HESITATION open the busy box or you know things like that you go from banging a Cup two now you’re in you’re teaching you’re giving this you’re planting the seed of empowerment you’re planting the seed of I can in the face of so much you can’t exactly and and I bowl and I don’t know I don’t know if you remember I’ve always said a child’s social emotional well being they’re they’re feeling of empowerment and feeling good the key to learning and the key to success they cannot learn if they’re not feeling that and power meant or that that or they’re not feeling good I feel like socially emotionally they have to be able to be in a good place to then continue to learn so yes so I think that that in power meant and that and I’m so happy to hear that Liam has that that he feels he feels good that he’s just going to you know stand up there and read and continue learning that’s that to me is so much more important than academics or what all these other things that really the fight child’s note learning the child’s strength showing them their strength showing the family their their strengths and then them them to then continue to keep learning and going forward and you know these are really challenges for typical parents as well yeah I mean I my main concern with my two boys and their little as I was concerned about the fancy academic schools I want my child to feel secure and loved and and the environment that they they were wanting to learn you know and I just I I I just feel that still to this day that that’s that’s giving them the the confidence to be able to question or you know and to feel like they can question is I think the key is the key to success I I I I really firmly believe that well you know my little sports brain is now defined you as the coach and the quarterback and now the cheerleader right those are all parts that do fit together well in your work you know that cheerleader that rah rah that encouragement is very important it can’t be stressed enough to go back to kind of some of the tools you use we didn’t discuss blocks and that’s pretty simple thing that parents may have because you have to think this podcast could also go out to people that are in the state maybe maybe your job isn’t even offered to them maybe they can get P. T. O. O. T. but the teaching part may not be there for them or they have you and they just want to do more which parents often want to want to just continue to to do this on a daily basis if they only have you once or twice a week or something how do you use blocks in your therapies in your sessions blocks are great so it as a baby just having him be able to reach out and grab a block there’s all certain certain types of grass so just having him reach out and grabbing a block then eventually holding two blocks and again bank in two blocks and then pulling out blocks from containers you know taking kept taking these blocks out of the containers because eventually what we’re going to want him to do is put the blocks back into containers so closer to one is when they’re really purposely releasing so that purposeful release comes importance to them we’re going to have the kids put the blocks back into the container makes a loud noise it’s fun because as lot of your old parents know when they’re sitting in the high chair they discovered throwing the food off and watching it fall that’s releasing but it’s not purposeful or not that we want we don’t want them to do that obviously so then teaching them to put the blocks in the container which then will lead to you know put in the circle in the sorter or in the square or it will lead to putting the completing a puzzle a shape puzzle %HESITATION and then also blocks even later on is building with them towers yep towers knocking them down making bridges with blonde you know and then posting a car under working on expressive language under putting it on and around %HESITATION those are all I mean blocks can go a long way even you know three four five year olds they can build with blocks block why is very important even reached colors %HESITATION you know just the way they build with them and kind of having them figure out different %HESITATION different you know buildings or designs are making cars and tracks pretend play is great I mean it’s so I just I think it’s it really gets to the imagination are you know that the kids can create and imagine with blocks you know building a house or building a garage or building a track or you know things like that and you had mentioned the purposeful release at and then throwing the food is releasing but without a purpose do you well it’s going to go out of you know what I’m you’re my credit is is there do we want to teach them that’s not purposeful and don’t throw the food and if we do do you have any advice on how to do that or is it just good for them to throw food to the ground I would try to catch them before they do it and redirect them we don’t really want them to do that %HESITATION and then it’s a habit to kinda hard hard to break but I would you know the goal is is catch them before they do it and then put the food baby in the bowl maybe put a little bit of less food on the tray so they don’t do that also watch out for when you know why are they I’m starting to throw it is that towards the end of the time is it too much food no trying to see what happens right before they throw that food %HESITATION but the the the I loved one into your phones because of its redirect redirect redirect and we also don’t want you know if you did throw it just sort of ignore it and move on because we don’t you know they’re not at the age you know three year olds maybe could be at the age where it’s like you know understanding you know we don’t do that right now this is you know but one and two year olds are not quite there where they’re not understanding so we don’t we want to really point out just the positives and kind of ignore that the behavior is that we don’t want them to see and as you were saying about %HESITATION throwing the food then we have to un teach that lesson one of the things that we see and where challenge with now that Liam is in the school system and you know for so much of the year he’s around other people who allow different behaviors and then come summertime come summertime we have to undo a lot of Liam gets away with everything or you know just certain habits that just we should have been learned do you have pointers for tips for parents on how to undo those bad behaviors well I always tell families because they say all it’s because he’s going to the day carries learning this I say you know what though at home is when you try to either discuss the behavior like that this is what we don’t we don’t do that at that we don’t do this in our home or you try to just sort of I mean it depends how young the child is ignore the behavior and then focus on just the positives on what he is doing at home but you know if he’s old enough to an understanding you could always just sort of all kids pick up good and bad behaviors I say that about everything and you know we just want to focus on what the beat you know what the behavior as you know and and just focus on that what we want them to do basically is and then kind of either disgusting like no we don’t do that at home we don’t whatever it is let’s say he’s throwing he’s throwing something I’m not quite sure the remote I don’t know whatever it is he’s doing at home they learned at school and then we could use I would discuss that with them like this is that what we’re doing at home but we do it you don’t whatever we don’t do this at home basically all kids are going to pick up good and bad you know they they they just DO end is just sort of teaching them that that’s not what we do in this home and talking with them and hopefully learning that they can’t do quite do that I guess the the challenge we get is that in the in the real world a lot of times Liam gets away with pretty much what he wants to do because he can out what like I I would say if you can get to the fourth time to telling him what to do if he doesn’t want to do something then he knows you’re you’re serious but for the most part people go to do that and I’ll say no and as they do that to say no and then they’ll say do that and he’ll say no and they won’t go and so then they’ll either do it or let allow him to continue if it gets to three it’s sometimes it’s just the second time they go okay like kids will go Liam you can’t do that and how do it they’ll be like okay Liam and so then Liam comes home around to the real world and he’s like I can kind of do what I want and that we have to try to that’s that’s something that we always we try to undo you know you think of it as a perception in society of just kind of letting Liam do like if it feeling for Liam that he has down syndrome and sometimes letting him do what he really wants because you know what’s making you happy although it might not be the most productive thing maybe he doesn’t want to do math right now he’d rather look at his iPad who wouldn’t but since Liam can sometimes get away with getting someone to allow that to happen I think maybe you’ve seen in the last thirty years some changes in perception societal perceptions to people with down syndrome that might be one that that is an evolving as fast that isn’t changing as quickly I feel like we always have to push Liam and he’ll do it but he may be a bit stubborn and and I don’t think it’s it’s something that is %HESITATION stopped I think it’s kind of all allowed to happen and and that’s why sometimes it’s harder to get through that stubbornness with him yeah and it’s harder for you guys Caroline we always love talking to you because you really have such wonderful information and insight thank you I mean it’s it’s so funny I I still tell my parents the state how you know parenting is still or parenting teaching myself it’s trial and error you know we’re just we gotta figure it out let’s try this approach it doesn’t work we’ll go try another approach but and then you say it was such a nice light voice and a laugh that is common because that’s not always how parents feel where this isn’t working now let’s try something else let’s just try the next thing it doesn’t come always from a place of a lighter air it’s always feels like a little bit of a weight behind it so it’s nice to have you there for all these families for us %HESITATION your kids sure certainly %HESITATION or who like you to have you in those formative years too because you’re a professional that that that you know where we got to have you by our side we could kinda be guided a little bit which would have been great with Sophie as well %HESITATION but he they were pretty lucky to have you there that’s really fantastic you know and Stephen just kinda tapped on and and I don’t think we’ve even talked about it because it’s about early intervention but you know just a minute for the parents is that you also give the parents permission to do it lately your we were able to do with Sophia and %HESITATION they’ll get it and all of those things that you it’s just comes with the territory but with the challenges of a child with down syndrome does that permission isn’t necessarily there because there’s so much going on there is so much as as the parent to try to parent as the parent of the unknown trying to figure out how that goes as working with the disability and all of those things that he you know just as a human to be given the permission to just be is it’s very liberating and I think without you ever saying that or being it was it was your voice it was your approach it was %HESITATION humility that came along with that where there wasn’t anything perfect it’s like %HESITATION where we today and all right let’s see let’s just let’s be here and see what happens and man I you know in hindsight you if we knew then but in hindsight you look back and it was that peace that you brought that that allowed us I I think aloud it was our formative years was our early intervention as well well thank you I mean I I every family I work with I learn from them as well and I just try to strive to get better and better but thank you so much my pleasure so I don’t well that wasn’t that was a nice sack conversation with Caroline and she had such an impact in our life and going back Stephen too if we knew then so we’re starting in if we’re if we knew then I wouldn’t have waited so long for some of the services I would have been more of an advocate to get some of the services started early and including the early intervention and there’s so much information I wish I had even and the pregnancy or when lamb was first born to be able to start setting up those %HESITATION service says contacting regional service and so he would have support from go I know that would be one thing that I would do I was I think I was afraid to ask for things or I couldn’t believe that somebody was going to help me I didn’t really know that it’s actually your child’s right so even with a it lia being premature and in the Nick you we were introduced to regional center and kind of got some things rolling I don’t think we asked enough and I think that’s because almost you feel like it’s a it you’re you’re given this gift and and should you ask for more it’s hard to like be given something he thinks the gift and then say hate anymore anything else I can get but it’s not a gift it is to try it isn’t but that’s how great comic him because that would be yeah I know you’re right I would ask for what I knew I know that speech was a really hard thing to get and we’re hoping to get a speech therapist on here but speech has always been a challenge and it’s the it’s a service that’s so needed because so important it’s the expressive language like lambs there he’s got the receptive he’s got the cognitive and a lot of times the judgment especially when it comes to the school system that falls heavy on the M. is his expressive and I have to work so hard to prove that nope it’s just he’s saying that you just don’t understand what he’s saying and so I think you know speech was a service that I would have fought harder for that I would definitely have fought harder and I would have pushed and I would have asked more questions and I would have advocated harder sooner it’s a great question to ask any professional in any therapy what would you recommend I do what other services do you think you could give us or that you know other families have and a lot of times as therapists will be open enough to say oh well you know I do have experience with this other service could be speech or could be occupational therapy physical therapy sell it’s always a great question to ask a provider what’s your experience with other children do you think my child would benefit from our services you think much I would benefit from and a lot of times you gonna have national come to you and say Hey this is this is this my insight because you really don’t have much insight at that time and if you don’t have questions being answered on a podcast or article that you found or some kind of video how would you know yeah I am I would also trust my got more because I know Natalie for both speech and for PT I know Natalie had remembered we had gone through a few therapists before settling on her and I always question myself when it didn’t feel right and I got when I know this is not a good fit or I remember one time we had a physical therapist who used the R. word which that just took that off the table and I did I doubted myself so I would say if I if I knew then what I know now I would advocate ask questions I don’t know what services I can get for my child and then ask for them and stay on top of that because it makes a huge difference well when we or when together I guess but I feel like you are more the front runner of it when we when we decided this this physical therapy just isn’t really working out a hundred percent like we won it and for you to bring to me the option of maybe we can ask for another physical therapist even the thought of it he would stress me so when we did it I still even after I went on to hurt anybody’s feelings did it was just the right thing to do is this is this how things happen %HESITATION we are we a problem are we you know and you know in hindsight though it was things that were unacceptable %HESITATION simply coming into our no brainer and you could tell just the therapy just but if it doesn’t feel right and you know what’s great is now ten years later there is YouTube there’s so many technologies around and even just speech that the amount of technologies and apps that are out there so even if you’re fighting to get the services go it go out there and start looking them up because there there’s a lot of supports there that are virtual and hopefully that also makes them more cost effective and so we can start to support our kids %HESITATION and bigger and better ways even if we’re having to fight to get the support in other manners we can actually do it and our home and I think that that’s what’s so great about technology is that it does it’s it’s just opening so many doors and I absolutely love and and I’m I’m in love with assistive technology

And this podcast is a bit of technology too. It’s going back to old school radio but it’s a way for us to where you were parents that have a lot of stuff going on in the day with seems like parents today are trying to multi task like like never before possibly also due to technology but to be able to put some headphones on and you can get some stuff done and still listen to the information. Just a way to inform yourself, which gives you power, which can then settle you in and maybe relieve some stress.

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