Early childhood Intervention Program re-opens therapy room, launches new wheelchair bus

Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Northern Advocate. ECIP’s new wheelchair bus on the job for the first day giving rides to children and visitors.

The Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECIP) had much to celebrate on Monday, Oct. 16.

Originally planned for opening in May of 2020, but held up by COVID, they celebrated the Grand Re-Opening of the Pediatric Therapy Room and the launch of their new wheelchair bus.

The bus has been five years of fundraising and many other events to raise the funds needed to purchase the much-needed bus. They had raised between $50,000 and $60,000, and received the $25,000 award from the Union of Safety and Justice Employees fund to bring them over the top and make the purchase.

“We were nominated by Kristy McDougal for a $25,000 award to go towards the wheelchair bus,” ECIP Director Daina Lapworth said.

“We are exceptionally grateful for this donation … that’s probably the best takeaway from the day,” she added.

She also complemented the community for their on-going support for ECIP.

“Without the community, we wouldn’t be here.”

The room is used for “all pediatric therapy for northern Saskatchewan”, Lapworth said.

Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Northern Advocate. Daina Lapworth and MLA Doyle Vermette share the joy of the Pediatric Therapy Room.

Occupational, physical, speech and language, psychologies, psychiatry, psychotherapy, audiology and physiotherapy are available for children who need them and are between the ages of 0-4 years.

“All of the therapies that all our kids would have to go to PA for, and then PA said they didn’t have room,” she explained.

They started with Speech and Language, because that was a huge need here. Now they offer it all.

“It expanded and expanded and expanded, so, now we offer all of those therapies at our office,” Lapworth said.

Outreach clinics are held three times annually and those are diagnostic clinics.

“They come up and they see kids as a team and the child will actually get a diagnosis instead of having to go south,” she explained.

Lapworth said there are many benefits to the service, as having to go south can be hard for families, especially if they are larger families. This way the child can come to a place they are familiar with and someone will help look after other children for the time, and it saves on expenses of going south, which has many benefits, she explained.

The rest of the months, specialists come up to La Ronge on a rotation of, usually two specialists at a time,  to work with the children at ECIP continuing to make it more comfortable for the children and their families and that’s been the goal, she said.

 It reduces the barriers for children substantially when the children can get a diagnosis early, she said.

Much can be done with children in the 0-4 age range by the time they are ready to go to school, if they are able to get a diagnosis when needed.

“It reduces a lot of barriers actually … it’s a very supportive environment,” Lapworth said.

ECIP also has a curriculum they work with which “helps the brain development. So, 90 per cent of brain development happens by the age of 4, so between 0 and 4 you can create this amazing change in the brain like, if children are born quite delayed, there’s so much you can do by the age of 4. … and so, the goal with the ECIP program was that with ECIP support the kids would develop at the same rate as a developing child does,” Lapworth said.

What’s happened, it can been even quicker, “not in every case, but it’s actually scientific based,” so some children will be able to go to school and not need assists or a tutor.

ECIP is made up of several programs: Early Childhood Intervention; Speech Language Pathology; Cognitive Disability Strategy; Family Support Program; Father Engagement and Early Childhood Intervention; Mentorship; Specialized Support and Outreach Clinic. And they serve 15 northern communities across the north for various resources.

Outreach and Ongoing Therapies serves La Ronge, Air Ronge, Hall Lake, Pinehouse, Sucker River, Stanley Mission, Grandmother’s Bay, Pelican Narrows, Deschambeault Lake, Wollaston, Brabant and Southend.

Specialized Support: La Ronge Air Ronge, Hall Lake, Pinehouse, Sucker River, Stanley Mission, Grandmother’s Bay, Pelican Narrows and Deschambeault Lake.

Cognitive Disability Strategy: La Ronge; Air Ronge; Pinehouse; Weyakwin; Sandy Bay; Pelican Narrows, Deschambeault Lake and Creighton.

Family Support and Father Engagement serve La Ronge and Air Ronge Off reserve only.

No one goes to the far, far north as there are different organization than the nearer north, Lapworth said.

The services have different options with each program and age ranges.