Oswego County Health Department Celebrates Public Health Week – Children With Special Needs

(Part 5 in a series of articles marking Public Health Week in Oswego County) Oswego County Health Department Serves Children with Special Needs

A strong public health system is essential to improving and protecting people’s health.

The role of public health may be most visible in the face of threats such as Zika or Ebola, but in reality, public health works to protect us every single day.

Whether it’s investigating foodborne illness outbreaks, monitoring the quality of water, ensuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines, or providing nursing care from infancy to end of life, public health protects the fundamental building blocks of healthy people and communities.

That’s why public health can’t just suspend its everyday functions when an emergency such as Zika strikes.

Public health must be able to maintain its core functions and support its ability to rapidly respond to serious disease threats and disasters.

Today, the Oswego County Health Department provides a look at preventive services provided by the Children with Special Needs Division.

OSWEGO COUNTY – The Children with Special Needs division of the Oswego County Health Department provides a variety of services for children from birth through 21 years of age.

As children with special needs travel through the many phases of life, the Children with Special Needs Division helps families navigate through the educational and health care systems to find services that best suit their needs.

“No one knows more about their child’s special needs and abilities than the parents and caregivers,” said Tammy Thompson, director of Programs for Children with Special Needs. “One of the most important skills that we hope to impart to families is learning how to navigate various systems. We hope to give families the tools they need to help advocate for their child through their lives.”

The Early Intervention Program is for children from birth through age two who have a developmental delay or disability.

The program provides evaluations and services at no cost to families.  The program is intended to provide services to children early to help them maximize their developmental potential.

It also helps families understand the special needs of their children so they can involve the child in all aspects of their family and community life.

Elisabeth Haight is one of the parents whose child is served by the program.

“We reached out for help through the Health Department. There was so much support and we didn’t have to worry about things financially,” she said. “We had monthly meetings with our team and all the support we got helped immensely. Our daughter is turning seven and she is an amazing little girl.”

“The program acted as our advocate but also helped us to understand our son’s diagnosis,” said Stephanie Andrews, another parent served by the Early Intervention Program.

The 3-5 Preschool Special Education program is similar to the Early Intervention Program; it provides a variety of evaluations and services to children with developmental delays and disabilities, but focuses more on how those delays and disabilities affect a child educationally.

Children who go through the Early Intervention Program will receive help to transition into the Preschool Special Education Program if they continue to need services.

If a family becomes concerned about their child’s development and the child is already three years old, parents may contact their school district’s local Committee on Preschool Special Education office.

For contact information, call the Children with Special Needs office at 315-349-3510.

“Early Intervention and the 3-5 preschool system changed the outcome of my child’s Autism diagnosis,” said parent Julie Chetney. “As difficult as it was for us to allow so many therapists, teachers, and professionals into his world, into our home, into our life, it was the absolute best thing we could have ever done in his entire 14 years.”

The Physically Handicapped Children’s Program is for children from birth through 21 years of age who have or are suspected of having a serious or chronic physical condition, and who require health and related services of a type or amount beyond that typically required by children.

In order to participate in the program, families must meet financial eligibility criteria and have health insurance for their children.

If families do not have health insurance, the health department staff can refer the parents to other agencies that  may be able to assist.

The PHCP program can help families set up diagnostic testing and evaluations to rule out certain conditions, pay for hearing aids and other durable medical equipment, and help offset other medical bills.

“This is a great service. They listened when no one else did,” said one parent whose child was served by the PHCP program.

For more information about any of the services provided by the Children with Special Needs division, please call 315-349-3510 or visit http://www.oswegocounty.com/health/specialneeds.html