The first smile, first step, first spoken word: All are milestones that when delayed can lead to sleepless nights and anxious conversations between parents.

For newborns and toddlers with such developmental delays, disabilities or special learning needs, Fort Jackson offers Educational and Development Intervention Services.

The on-post EDIS team's goal is to help more Families in need, said Malynda Mulvany, speech pathologist and new EDIS program manager.

EDIS provides in-home Early Intervention Services for infants and toddlers up to 3-years old living on-post with developmental delays or diagnoses like Spina Bifida or Down Syndrome that make them more susceptible to delays.

These are "critical early years of development," said Jennifer Truesdell, early childhood special educator for EDIS. "Their little brains are just growing and developing," and intervening early means less likelihood for setbacks in school later on.

"The earlier they get the intervention, the better the outcome," she said.

Truesdell is a military spouse who says she understands first-hand the importance of these interventions. Her son was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 7.

"Being a military spouse is challenging enough," she said. An active duty spouse isn't always home at the end of the day to take over or provide support, whether because they are on temporary duty, are deployed or are working long hours.

"It gets tiring," especially when kids act out because they aren't being understood, she added.
Communication issues and resulting behaviors like tantrums, biting and hitting are the most common of the delays EDIS works with.

Infants and toddlers with signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder are also referred often, Truesdell said.

EDIS is "evidence-based practice," Truesdell said. They have a "wide variety" of services to "treat the whole child," including occupational therapy and physical therapy, offered in natural settings for kids -- in-home and at daycare.

EDIS collaborates with Child & Youth Services and daycares on-post to give staff strategies to make daily routines flow more smoothly, Truesdell said.

What that means looks different for every individual case -- it could be helping the youngster learn how to climb up and down the stairs or to use a spoon.

The goal is to train caregivers and parents the skills to ease the process since "they're going to be there 24/7," whereas EDIS workers are only on-site occasionally to check in, Mulvany said.

Youngsters who qualify for services must be referred, either by their Family or their doctor, and screened for eligibility.

Daycare providers may recommend that Families make the call if they see signs of delay.

The children who meet EDIS criteria get a customized plan tailored to their needs to provide them with services and support to help them reach developmental goals.

"We're here for (Army Families)," and aim to teach parents that "they can make a significant difference in the life of this child," Truesdell said.

Parents can make a referral by calling Fort Jackson's EDIS team at 751-4165 or 751-6910. Services are free to those who qualify.