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Budget talks come for ND agencies assisting special needs children

Parents of children with special needs and other interested individuals will have a chance to attend and participate in budget talks at a North Dakota Interagency Coordinating Council meeting Thursday.

The council is comprised of members of the North Dakota Department of Human Services, N.D. Department of Health, N.D. Department of Public Instruction, among other agencies that work with children with special needs.

The meeting is based at the Department of Human Services Developmental Disabilities Division in Bismarck, but will connect to offices in Devils Lake, Dickinson, Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown, Minot and Williston through interactive television.

In North Dakota, services are available to children with developmental disabilities or delays starting at birth and anyone from caregivers to doctors can refer a child to the Department of Human Services. In Dickinson, that provider is the Badlands Human Service Center.

"Every North Dakota child is special and unique in abilities and family heritage and their potential to grow, but sometimes babies and toddlers might not seem to keep up with their other children," said Joanna Smith, developmental disabilities regional program administrator at Badlands Human Service Center.

Infant Development works with parents to provide support and training to meet the child's needs through home visits and classes, she said.

"Sometimes it's difficult to get there in the North Dakota weather, but my gosh, we have some really dedicated people who really believe in what they're doing and they get there," Smith said.

Residents of all counties (Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Hettinger, Golden Valley, Slope and Stark) covered by the unit, no matter how rural, may qualify for early intervention services.

Early childhood intervention provided by the state is free to all parents of qualified children. There is no income cap, Smith said.

Some children, with the help of early intervention, are caught up by the age of 3 and can leave Children's Special Health Services, she said. Others transition into services provided through the public school system.

If delays are missed before the age of 3, they can be caught after preschool.

"Three- to 5-year-olds basically could go through that process at any time," said Dorothy Martinson, director of student services for Dickinson Public Schools.

The transition period begins at age 2 years, 7 months with visits and evaluations until the child is 3, Martinson said.

When older students enter DPS, they are evaluated and placed into the appropriate classroom, she said. While there may be a few concerns when a student transitions after moving to Dickinson from out of state, most places have the same goal when it comes to childhood development.

"We can just pick up with them the first day they enroll," Martinson said.

One major agenda item at Thursday's Interagency Coordinating Council meeting will be the budget as it pertains to the upcoming biennium, said Tamara Gallup-Millner, division director for Children's Special Health Services for the North Dakota Department of Health.

"We focus a lot on coordination and collaboration between the Department of Human Services, the Department of Health, Department of Public Instruction as well as the provider community and families and making sure a big stakeholder group on the ICC is really advising the Department of Human Services in ways that we can support families that have children either with significant delays or disabilities," she said.

The meeting is set for noon to 4 p.m. in the Basement General Staff Conference Room at the Badlands Human Service Center, 300 13th Ave. W, Suite 1.

Smith urges anyone in the area who believes an infant they are close to could benefit from Infant Development to call her at 701-227-7542.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206
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