Early Steps Program
Is your infant or child developing on schedule?
“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 child’s pediatrician if certain behaviors are “normal” and when they should be concerned or ask for professional help if their child does not appear to be progressing as quickly as other children in their play or age groups. While it is true that children all 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.
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.
Our goals at Early Steps are to:
• Bring services into the child’s life rather than fitting the child into services.
• Maximize each child’s everyday natural learning opportunities.
• Enhance each child’s development and participation in community life.
• Provide each child with a consistent team for evaluation and services.
• Give families options in service decisions.
About Early Steps
At Early Steps, we provide families and caregivers with services to enhance their child’s development so they are ready to learn when they enter school. These services are provided free of charge for all families.
Early Steps helps infants and toddlers with special needs to be:
• Involved in as many of their family’s daily activities as possible,
• Supported in participating in community activities,
• Included in playing and learning with children without disabilities on a regular basis.
Who 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 have a condition that places them at risk for a significant developmental delay.
Some children may have developmental difficulties because:
• They were born premature or spent time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for other reasons.
• They can’t walk without help or don’t talk before the age of two.
• They have difficulty seeing or hearing, or are slow to learn and understand.
Follow-up developmental evaluations are available for high risk children leaving the Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery at Children's Hospital, and Early Steps referrals are accepted from parents or from physicians and community service providers with parent permission for children with suspected delays or established conditions.
Evaluation & Assessment
Each child grows at an individual pace, but research shows that a child’s first three years are the most important time for learning. Beginning interventions early puts your child on the right path to learn and develop at their full potential. Participating in Early Steps has many benefits for your family, including an evaluation and assessment of your child’s strengths and needs.
At Early Steps, your child’s development will be assessed in the following areas:
- Thinking, learning, problem-solving
- Gross & Fine Motor Skills:
- Moving, walking, grasping, coordination
- Babbling, languages, speech, conversation
- 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.
Early Intervention Teams
Each child served by Early Steps has a community-based early intervention team made up of specialists from a variety of areas, including an Infant Toddler Developmental Specialist, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, and Speech Language Pathologist as needed by the child and family. The team works together to develop a specialized plan based on the family’s outcomes and goals. The Early Steps team will also select a primary service provider for each child as a central point of contact.
We’re Expecting Your Call!
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.
Early Steps at The Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart
5150 Bayou Blvd., Suite 1N
Pensacola, FL 32503
Open Monday - Friday
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.