Early Steps Program
“Shouldn’t Jimmy be walking by now?”
“Why isn’t Susie saying ‘mama’ yet?”
“How do I know if my baby is developing properly?”
Parents frequently ask their pediatrician if certain behaviors are “normal.” When children don’t appear to be progressing as quickly as other children their age, how do you know when to be concerned or ask for professional help?
While it is true that children learn and develop at different rates, child health professionals have created nationally recognized developmental milestones to help parents and other caregivers determine if developmental supports are needed.
Research shows that a child’s first three years are the most important time for learning. Beginning interventions early puts children on the right path so they are ready to learn upon entering school.
The Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart is home to the Western Panhandle Early Steps program, which provides free early intervention services to minimize developmental delay for children from birth to three years of age in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties.
Children We Serve
Each year, the Early Steps program at Children's provides early intervention services to more than 1,300 local infants and toddlers who have significant developmental delays or who have a condition that places them at risk for a significant developmental delay.
Some indications of a developmental difficulty include a child who:
- Was born prematurely or spent time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
- Can’t walk without help or doesn’t talk before the age of two
- Has difficulty seeing or hearing
- Is slow to learn and understand
Referrals are accepted from parents, as well as from physicians and community service providers with parent permission, for children with suspected delays or established conditions.
Each child treated at Early Steps is assigned a team made up of specialists from a variety of areas as needed by the child and family, including an occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech language pathologist and infant/toddler developmental specialist. The Early Steps team also selects primary service provider to serve as a family’s a central point of contact.
This team works together to develop a specialized plan based on the family’s goals coupled with the child’s progress.
At Early Steps, your child’s development will be assessed in the following areas:
- Physical: Health, hearing, vision
- Cognitive: Thinking, learning, problem solving
- Gross and Fine Motor Skills: Moving, walking, grasping, coordination
- Communication: Babbling, languages, speech, conversation
- Social/Emotional: Playing and interacting with others
- Adaptive Development: Self-help skills (i.e. feeding, toileting, dressing)
These assessments help identify services that will benefit your child. Services are provided during your child’s daily activities so that natural leaning opportunities are maximized while still meeting your child’s everyday needs.
For more information or to refer a child to the Early Steps Program at The Children's Hospital, please call 850-416-7656 or 1-800-281-1845.
5150 Bayou Blvd., Suite 1N
Pensacola, FL 32503
Open Monday - Friday
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.