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EDIS helps ease parents’ worries

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Discovering a child may have developmental disorder can be tumultuous time for a parent. Parents worry about how their child will get along at school and how to ensure they learn necessary skills.

Helping ease Aviano parents from the weight of worry is the Educational and Development Intervention Services clinic.

The EDIS clinic helps by identifying and treating developmental problems early and working with school to make sure children are incorporated into a normal routine.

“We have two main services here; early intervention which is form children up to 3 years old and related services where we interface with the schools,” said Maj. Travis Adams, 31st Medical Operations Squadron EDIS child and adolescent psychologist. “Related services cover anything that affects the child in the school environment such as motor skills and emotional problems or learning problems.”

To identify children who may need extra help, EDIS screens all new babies born at Aviano and uses a monitoring checklist called Ages and Stages which singles out potential problem areas such as communication, gross and fine motor skills and problem solving.

“A lot of the time we’ll find out a child may have a development problem through the well-baby checks as the pediatrician,” said Major Adams. “After that, the parents can either come here or have a home assessment.”

Once a child reaches school age, the EDIS counselors create an individualized education plan.

“Individualized education plans help us outline what the child and their teacher needs to be successful and have a healthy school experience,” said Staff Sgt. Tracie Lawrence, EDIS flight chief. “Anything that can impact children educationally, we treat.”

In order to treat a variety of developmental impediments, EDIS employs a range of professionals in different specialties including and audiologist, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists and counselors.

Physical therapists work with children and parents to help them develop and strengthen gross and fine motor skills.

“For children up to three, gross motor skills are going to include early skills of head control, rolling, sitting, being able to move in and out of sitting, crawling on the tummy and the hands and knees, pulling to stand, walking, running, stair climbing and riding on toys,” said Nikkiann Economos, 31st MDOS physical therapist. “Fine motor activities include making sure the hands have enough strength to do all the usual play things. As they move forward into toddlerhood, it becomes buttons, snaps, manipulating spoons, knives, forks and drinking from a cup and writing.”

While it’s important for the children to learn these skills, Ms. Economos said it’s the parents that can have a big impact on how their child progresses in the learning process.

“The early intervention program really focuses on educating the parents to work with their children,” she said. “It’s really about educating and training parents so they know how to help their child through the daily routine.”

Ms. Economos, a physical therapist for the past 18 years, said what she does is significant because it teaches both parents and children the importance of physical wellness.

“There is so much socialization that happens when you’re able to be physically active with your peers,” she said. “I would want to ensure every child has the opportunity to be as active as possible so they can be in their peer groups and participate in the ways that they want to.

”In addition to professional counseling and therapy services, EDIS counselors incorporate a little fun into the play sessions.

“WE have classes like yoga which allow the kids to be creative,” said Sergeant Lawrence. “They also play games that help them blow off some steam after school and work on balance and coordination.”

The services EDIS offers can help make parents and children’s lives easier but these benefits weren’t always available.

“Back in the states, development concerns wouldn’t be as much of a concern because parents could see a local provider, but overseas those services weren’t around,” said Major Travis. “Congress passed a law that said there would be certain services families and children would have access to overseas.”

Even though the EDIS clinic isn’t directly responsible for putting Aviano’s F-16s in the air, Major Adams said they do contribute to the overall mission.

“I see that we are directly related to the mission accomplishments because if families aren’t doing well, it’s really hard to be successful at your job,” he said. “The people who work here know how to make kids feel special and parents feel good about being parents.”