Recently there have been many shared stories about programs for children with special needs and their parents, and how to successfully integrate this population into existing programs. Individuals have shared their stories of inclusion of babies and toddlers into story time and how they adapt to meet the needs of these children. Large library systems have presented conference programs on how to effectively create and run a successful program addressing the needs of children with autism. But what if you are a small library or have minimal resources (i.e. funds, staff, expertise) to conduct an ongoing or large-scale program? Many of us answer that question by finding a community partner to work with.
If your child audience is the under 3 set and you are focusing on early literacy skills and development, a great partner for collaboration and expert information can be found within an Early Intervention (EI) services provider. Early Intervention services focus on the development of basic skills and are designed to meet the special needs of children who have a developmental delay or diagnosed disability. These basic skills include physical (reaching, rolling, crawling, and walking), cognitive (thinking, learning, solving problems), communication (talking, listening, understanding), social/emotional (playing, feeling secure and happy), and self-help (eating, dressing).
Library programs often aim to provide modeling behavior for parents in how to work with their children to develop these important childhood skills. Integrating the expertise and instruction of a developmental specialist from an EI provider can enhance the skills you are sharing with babies and toddlers, as well as provide expert instruction for parents. EI services can also help address the concerns of parents who may feel their child is lagging behind his or her peers and confirm whether their fears are warranted or if parents should give the child more time to reach certain milestones.
The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities provides a helpful state finder to help locate Early Intervention services in your area http://nichcy.org/state-organization-search-by-state . This site is also helpful in understanding children with disabilities and the challenges they and their family members face on a daily basis. This will be a good resource to librarians as professionals serving their communities.