Kids' First Years

PIE Program Provides Early Intervention Services for Young Children

Meet the PIE Team! Front row: Deatrice Williams (Infant Development Specialist), Ebony McCall (Service Coordinator), Jennifer Moran (Admin. Support), Jackelyn Ferreyra (Service Coordinator). Back row: Rebecca Bryant (Service Coordinator), LaShonda McDade (Program Manager), Jackie Butler (Fiscal Admin. Support), Aliyah Haughton (Service Coordinator), Mariah Strock (Intake Coordinator), Miranda Morgan (Service Coordinator/IDS).

By Michelle Smith Howard, President and CEO, Kids’ First Years

Alexandria, VA – Did you know that May is Early Intervention Month?

The word “intervention” can evoke images of concerned friends or family members staging a surprise meeting with an individual who has been behaving badly in some fashion. However, that’s not the meaning of “early intervention” which is a collaborative system of supports and services for families with infants and toddlers (ages 0-36 months) that have developmental delays or disabilities.

Here in Alexandria, if an infant or toddler is disabled or shows signs of developmental delays, families may qualify for early intervention services provided by the Parent & Infant Education (PIE) Program of the city’s Department of Community & Human Service (DCHS). These services empower families and give them the skills and strategies they need to help the child reach their full potential.

“Parents may not even realize that their child could benefit from early intervention services until the pediatrician or another adult notices that the child isn’t meeting some of the major milestones for their age and makes a referral to us,” said LaShonda McDade, PIE Mental Health Team Leader and Local Systems Manager.

Ms. McDade emphasized that parents are welcome to reach out to PIE directly if they have questions about their child’s development. “If parents have any concerns about whether their child has any type of developmental delay, we want to hear from them,” she said. “They don’t have to wait for someone else to refer their child. The sooner that a family starts early intervention services, the more positive impacts we see on outcomes across the developmental domains, including a decreased need for special education when children are older.”

Steps in PIE’s Process for Early Intervention

  • PIE receives a referral from sources including pediatricians, early childhood centers, child care providers, social services entities, parents and family members.
  • PIE schedules an appointment with an intake coordinator who receives and shares information in addition to conducting developmental screenings.
  • An assessment is completed by a multi-disciplinary team to determine if there is a significant delay or atypical development.
  • If developmental delays are confirmed or the child has a medical diagnosis that automatically qualifies them for services, PIE assigns a service coordinator to guide the family in developing a treatment plan and to monitor ongoing services.
  • The parent participates as a team member and provides input in the goals and services that are written in the plan to help them support their child’s learning and development.

What Does Early Intervention Look Like?

In short, early intervention looks exactly like what the family is already doing. PIE’s hands-on approach is designed to align with a family’s daily routine.

For example, if the family is having a hard time with feeding the child, then the assigned provider (therapist) would observe the child at the regular feeding time and offer strategies to help the family. PIE engages with the family as a whole, not just with the child who is disabled or is experiencing developmental delays.

“All services take place in a child’s natural environment where they are most comfortable,” said Ms. McDade. “Our providers serve as coaches to the parents, who are the experts on their own children. We want to build on their knowledge and celebrate developmental successes along the way. The goal is to help the child participate in and enjoy things that are important to the family.”

Four initiatives that PIE is showcasing for Early Intervention Month include:

Providing social/emotional support for kids – Children need social and emotional support just like adults. PIE will soon have an infant and toddler mental health specialist on staff who is trained to provide this specialized type of early intervention service to young children.

PIE Child Find Awareness – Through this Child Find effort, PIE is proactively reaching out to pediatricians, early childhood centers and child care providers to raise awareness about their early intervention services and to increase referrals of children who could benefit from PIE’s offerings.

Activities for family engagement – PIE will be providing more engagement activities for families in Alexandria in an effort to build trust and to forge a strong connection with moms and dads and kids. This effort will help families gain a better understanding of the full scope of PIE’s services and how to access them when necessary.

Racial equity – PIE is developing robust strategies to keep racial equity as a priority and to provide services and support in an equitable way to all families with young children in Alexandria.

Partners – 1

Helpful Resources

  • To make a referral to PIE, contact Jennifer Moran at 703-746-3363 or visit and click the Referral tab.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers resources on developmental milestones at many stages from birth to age five, including a free Milestone Tracker App. For details, visit gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html

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