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Mayor Bowser Highlights Early Childhood Investments to Support Families During Visit with Strong Start DC Community Playgroup

Monday, September 9, 2019
Mayor Preparing to Host the District’s Second National Maternal and Infant Health Summit

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser met with children and families at the Strong Start DC Early Intervention Program office in Ward 1 to observe a Strong Start community playgroup. The free playgroups are facilitated by early intervention professionals who provide a family-centered, child-interest driven environment and provide families with information about their child’s development, early childhood developmental screenings, early intervention processes, and other resources available to District families. Tomorrow, Mayor Bowser will host the District’s second National Maternal and Infant Health Summit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

“As we prepare to host tomorrow’s Maternal and Infant Health Summit, we’re proud of the investments we’ve made in the District to support our children and families during a child’s first few months and years and to put them on the best path forward to a healthy and successful life,” said Mayor Bowser. “We know that raising healthy children and supporting strong families is a community effort. With our free Strong Start DC community playgroups, we’re providing family-centered, child-interest driven environments for children while their families receive information about child development and early interventions.”

The Strong Start DC Early Intervention Program is a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated and multidisciplinary system that serves as the single point of entry children birth to age three in Washington, DC whose families have concerns about their children’s development. Infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities and their families receive early intervention services, and supports through the program. Strong Start also uses the Natural Learning Environment Practices (NLEP) approach which provides services where the child lives, learns and plays, focusing on helping families and caregivers learn to use a child’s interests and everyday activities as learning opportunities.

“Children are our most valuable resource. Early intervention services can make a world of difference in the lives of infants and toddlers who are suspected of having, or have been diagnosed with, developmental delays or disabilities and their families,” said State Superintendent Hanseul Kang. “Early intervention services capitalize on the developmental potential of infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities within the perspective of their daily routines and activities, increasing their potential to live independently as mature adults.”

Strong Start hosts free weekly community playgroups to provide families across DC with information about their child’s development and services their children can receive. The community playgroups are facilitated by early intervention professionals and provide a family-centered, child-interest driven environment for children to interact with their same-age peers, while families receive information about early intervention related topics. Community playgroups are held on different days each month throughout the District. Registration opens at 10 am two weeks prior to the scheduled community playgroup date and closes at 10 am. the day before the playgroup. Space is limited and parents need to register monthly for each playgroup session. For more information, visit OSSE’s website.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C, along with the Early Intervention Program Establishment Act of 2004 (D.C. Law 15-353; D.C. Code § 7–863.02) mandate that infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families receive coordinated services early enough to make a difference. These services must be flexible, culturally responsive, and most importantly, meet the needs of the child and the family.

The Enhanced Special Education Services Act of 2014 established new eligibility for services for children with a developmental delay of 25% or more, in at least one of the development areas beginning July 1, 2018. The developmental areas include physical development, including vision or hearing; cognitive development; communication development; social or emotional development; or adaptive development. Strong Start is currently providing services to 1,302 children and their families, a 12% increase compared to July 2019. Between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, 301 children have qualified for early intervention that otherwise would not been receiving services.