10/17/04 — Woman finds niche in helping preschoolers with special needs

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Woman finds niche in helping preschoolers with special needs

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on October 17, 2004 2:02 AM

WARSAW -- A woman who works with small children says many parents don't know it's abnormal to be able to speak only three words at age 3.

Amanda Bostic, coordinator of preschool services for the Duplin County Schools, was one of the speakers at the Duplin County Early Childhood Intervention Forum held in the Jester's Court on Tuesday at the Country Squire Restaurant. Attending the forum were about 20 people who help parents identify and deal with children who need special attention, such as speech therapy, physical therapy, vision and hearing help and need for transportation.

Ms. Bostic was a special education teacher before she started five years ago working with the pre-schoolers.

Her first year, she worked with 18 children. This year, she has worked with 102.

The "special education" stigma is wearing off, she told the group, made up of pediatric care givers, the health department, educators.

Day care centers used to turn her away. Now they're a lot more receptive to her services. Some doctors are calling her to come see their children.

"They're getting more special needs children," she said. "A lot of times you are the first to realize this child has issues."

She said she is seeing a large increase in destructive behavior. It's not been a temper tantrum here and there. "I'm talking about destroying a room." She said she has also seen a dramatic increase in autistic behavior.

Teachers tell her the children who have no day-care experience are at a loss when they reach the public schools.

"They've never been away from Mama," she said. "I encourage parents to have their child around other children and develop those social skills."

Children in the program progress well, she said, sometimes to the point where they don't need any more special help when they reach the public schools.

A lot of the people in Duplin County who work with small children are passionate about what they do, said Joan Williams, the director of N.C. Partnership for Children, which oversees Smart Start. She organized the forum to help the early caregivers learn about changes the state has made in how they refer children to special services they need.

Parents and doctors who used to call the Developmental Evaluation Center will now call the Children's Developmental Services Agency, which has sent two service coordinators to work in Duplin County. The keynote speaker, Dr. Ross Williams, is a pediatrician for the agency in Wilmington.

"It's always great to be among people who care about and for children," he told the group. He shared with them how the early interventions save taxpayers money through things like less expensive placements in the public schools, reductions in welfare costs, and when they're grown, fewer teen pregnancies, less incarceration and increased employment.

"Both the participants and the taxpayers benefited from the program," he said. "Everybody was a winner."