Early Intervention: Program celebrates awareness month with success story

Published 10:13 pm Friday, April 27, 2018

Three-year-old Mariyah Boyd came to Cahaba Center for Mental Health’s Early Intervention (EI) program shortly before her second birthday with some speech issues.

Boyd had problems saying words and telling her mom, Marranda Smith, what she needed or wanted. That’s when Ytenna Howard, service coordinator and special instructor for EI stepped in to help by visiting the family’s home. Before long, Boyd was saying her colors, counting and telling her mom exactly what she wanted.

“I took her to her pediatrician one day, and they were asking questions like is she talking, is she saying different things and putting words into sentences. I just told him the truth. I said, no, not really,” Smith said. “She could kind of point things out, but she wasn’t saying anything at the time. They recommended me to the program.”

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Once she began with Early Intervention, they evaluated her and selected Howard to work with her on her speech.

“Mariyah came to us with a communication delay, so we went into the home and provided strategies and techniques to mom to help her improve her communication skills,” Howard said. “The progress has been tremendous. She came to us with a communication delay, and when the process was over, she was pretty much saying what she wanted.”

Howard said she would provide Boyd with choices and encourage her to choose.

“When she chose what she wanted, you would say the word to her of what she chose,” Howard said.

“If she was thirsty, but she was pulling on mom to the refrigerator instead of saying she wanted something to drink, we would encourage mom to give her two choices. Do you want juice, or do you want milk? If she only reached for the milk, then you would say milk before handing it to her, to give her a word with what she wanted.”

Smith said in her time with the program, Boyd made tremendous progress.

“As she’s been working with [Howard], she’s been saying everything,” Smith said.

“It opened her mind up to different things.”

Smith is excited for the progress that her daughter made.

“It’s just amazing. It’s overwhelming. It’s good to see. It brightens my day knowing she learned something,” Smith said.

“I’m very thankful. It made her progress. I wish that if any other child or parents needed help with their child on speech or just trying to communicate, they should reach out to Early Intervention.”

Howard said her job is rewarding, and she enjoys working with young children and helping them advance.

“The feeling is amazing because I make a difference. I’m able to work with families that have these huge concerns about their children, and they just want them to talk,” Howard said.

“For me, to working with this family, with a child that is not talking, to hear her saying words is pretty awesome. It lets me know that I’m truly making a difference in not only the child’s life, but in the family’s life.”

Boyd had to leave the program in March when she turned three, but both Smith and Howard are happy with what she accomplished during a year in the program.

“Communication is so important in today’s society, that I feel like starting it at that age, will carry her on for a long time,” Howard said.

The local Early Intervention services Dallas, Wilcox and Perry counties.

“Any time that I can serve a family that’s in those three counties, I’m there,” Howard said. “A lot of people don’t even know about Early Intervention or our services, so we just like to make people aware of our services and what we do.”

April is Early Intervention Awareness Month. Those interested in the program can call the local office at (334) 875-2100, or the nationwide office at 800-CHILDFIND.