PA organization celebrates long-time services for children with developmental delays

Staff, including executive director Lauren Helstrip (left), pose in front of a bouncy castle that was part of the Prince Albert Early Childhood Intervention Program’s 40th (plus three) birthday party on Sept. 13, 2023. – PAECIP/Submitted

A Prince Albert organization helping children with developmental delays has reached a major milestone.

The city’s Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECIP) welcomed families on Wednesday to celebrate its 40th birthday – which actually was in 2020.

“We were looking at doing our 40th anniversary the September of 2020, but we couldn’t because of all the restrictions, so we postponed it,” explained executive director Lauren Helstrip.

“We thought, you know what, 40, plus three.”

Prince Albert’s ECIP was one of the first in the province, she said. With funding from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, staff travel to homes of children from birth to age six with a developmental delay diagnosis or who are at risk of delays.

An example is helping to develop fine motor skills, with the goal of using utensils to eat.

“We give them ideas to sought implementing that during their daily routines, things like even just playing with a plastic set of knives and forks at bath time,” she said.

“It can be as challenging as working with a child who’s on the autism spectrum, who is non-verbal, and helping the parents to figure out which type of communication works better for their child.”

Helstrip said ECIP’s goal is accessibility.

“We can go out to families, which helps to ease that barrier to get to services,” she said.

Staff can travel as far north as Montreal Lake, stretching to the Kinistino area and south to Rosthern.

However, thanks to their newly-renovated family room, parents can also bring their children into the building on First Avenue West for help.

While doctors, teachers or daycares can refer children to their services, a formal referral isn’t required. ECIP also helps families with wider resources like speech therapy, physiotherapy, and autism services.

“It’s all about community here. We need to help these families out as much as we can and get them connected to help for their children. They are with us because they want to have a better life for their kids,” said Helstrip.

“It’s amazing to work with an organization that’s been around that long, and has got such a good standing within the community.”

Helstrip said ECIP tries to host monthly events where families they serve can come together. They’re looking at providing more weekend gatherings to accommodate work schedules.