Advocates Push for Support of Special Needs Program 

Catherine Pegram

Parents of preschoolers with developmental disabilities, along with their teachers and other advocates gathered today in Augusta. They’re urging lawmakers not to cut early intervention programs as they work to close the state’s budget gap. These students, parents and teachers know first hand the importance of early childhood programs to help kids with special needs succeed.Dayna Klein says in the last year, it’s make a huge difference for her four-year-old son, Charlie.”He’s alive and filled with joy and wonderful things to say. And it’s because he’s getting the kind of support that he needs and the only way to do that for preschoolers with developmental disabilities is through the wonderful work of early intervention and developmental preschools.”Gathered at the Capitol, their goal is to educate a new administration about the value of such programs. They say they’re off to a good start with the governor designating March as Developmental Disabilities Month. Jonathan Leach, the executive director of The Children’s Center in Augusta says, “What we and providers like us and parents do in those critical first five years can’t be done later on. We need to be able to provide focused effective services in those first five years of life when it’s cost effective, when it benefits our society, benefits our kids and benefits our families.”They also hope the cuts lawmakers will make to balance the state budget don’t come on the backs of children, especially those with developmental disabilities. Ruth Hughes, the director of the Shooting Start Program in Scarborough, says, “If we don’t help these children at a young age by the time they get to public school, their needs are going to grow and they’re going to be even greater and we’re going to need more resources and more money to service their needs.”