It was one of our sun-drenched days in the Puget Sound area. This meeting would take me away from Seattle about thirty miles. Up into the foothills of the Cascade Mountains to the town of North Bend. Not far from the town of Duvall, where my home has been for the previous few years. Encompass serves as the Early Intervention program for the Snoqualmie Valley, of which Duvall remains part. With being a member of the community Encompass serves, excitement surrounded the appointment. Driving through the Snoqualmie Valley took me into two more towns of Encompass. Then, climbing up the hill past Snoqualmie Falls and on into North Bend. The organization sat in the downtown area. Pulling into the parking lot off the relatively quiet street was comfortable. Without difficulty finding a place to park, I walked into the single-story offices of Encompass. The building had other businesses to either side of the Encompass entrance. Upon making my way through the front door, a spacious reception area greeted me on the inside. It wasn’t long before a kind appearing woman greeted me to begin the meeting. Walking over the threshold separating the reception area from the facility, we reached out hands in greeting. Before, recalling the pandemic affecting us all and pulling our hands back. Our tour would be the first order of business.
The building felt comfortable from our beginning. Walking through the door separating the reception area from the facility. The first sight was an open area centered by a round table for children to play. We moved to the right into the behavioral part of the facility. A couple therapy rooms anchored the short hallway. One of those, on the left side, peaked some interest. Moving back into the hallway, that room of interest was shown housing a computer, along with a looking glass into one of the therapy rooms at the end of the hall. The glass was one way, for the therapist to view interaction happening inside the room, without the occupants seeing the therapist. This small room housing the computer allowed the therapist to watch the interaction of parent with child. The parent would be wearing an earpiece, through which the therapist was given the ability to communicate with the parent. Providing pointers on positive interaction, while the child and parent are in the middle of interaction. PCIT was the type of therapy, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, my first exposure to the type. The process struck me as extremely interesting, sending those familiar chills throughout my body. It seemed such a positive way to help improve the relationship between parents and their children.
From the interest of learning of the behavioral program at Encompass, we walked through more of the facility. It was a building of different hallways, taking us around corners. We went into a room designed for physical therapy. A jungle gym like room seen at many of these facilities. The same kind of emotion hit me, similar to each time entering into these areas. The kid in me, wanting to play around on the fun looking equipment. We also looked into rooms used for the other forms of therapy. Rooms smaller in scale to work on occupational and speech therapies. Then, on to take a glimpse inside the office space. It was a large room with many desks. Each person working on the social distancing we have now grown accustom to working with. The tour of the Encompass facility brought us back to the front. Along the way another kind woman had joined us, who would also be part of our meeting. Once arriving in the front part of Encompass, there was one more aspect of our tour. We walked over to a glass case sitting on an elevated table. Inside the case was a rendering of a building. A new facility for the Encompass organization. The model looked incredible and would give them the ability to combine the pieces’ present there with their early learning. The ground breaking will take place soon and I look forward to seeing the new facility.
As we finished looking at the rendering sitting atop the table, we were joined by another kind woman. With everyone ready to begin, we walked back to a conference room for the meeting. The large table ran the length of the generously sized space. Taking a seat in some comfortable office chairs, we made a point to spread out around the table. Keeping with establishing good social distancing. These meeting are always interesting to experience. After becoming introduced to some Early Intervention and Early Learning organizations the shift turns to uniqueness. Always looking for the information setting organizations apart and learning things that cause excitement. Encompass does work with children beyond the Early Intervention portion of their lives. After reaching the age of three, children have the ability to work with the organization until the age of eight. Moving from the in-home work of Early Intervention into the on-site therapy work at the facility. We spoke of the transition period involved in moving out of Early Intervention programs. Which has often been discussed in many of these meetings. Where parents may become apprehensive over the next step of their child’s journey. When the in-home services come to a close, giving way to school. Parents often feeling less involved in the care of their child. We hear so often of this challenging transition point, which was no different when meeting with the three ladies of Encompass. There doesn’t seem to be a good solution in easing this transition point. Something which appears to require more attention in finding things that might help. The aspect of Encompass giving me pause and having me wonder if they are on to something was their behavioral program. With my background in psychology and relatively limited knowledge of these transitions, it had me interest.
There would seem to be stress involved when raising children. Having not had children to this point, I’m left to attempt understanding through others. Which has me thinking the stress of raising a child with special needs could be increasingly so. The possibility of it being challenging and different from raising a typically developing child. The Parent-Child Interactive Therapy program at Encompass has been there to help. They use a measurement to look at the likelihood of benefiting from the therapy, called the Parent Stress Index. The therapy has been used as a child abuse prevention tool. Looking into ways of more positive interaction between parent and child. The therapy has become useful at Encompass to the point of requiring a waiting list for the opportunity to get involved. PCIT has been used with children ages 2-7. The program lasts for 10-20 weeks, involving hour long sessions. Unlike attending parenting classes, where ideas are learned on how to parent, then parents are left to make attempts with the material once at home. In this situation, the therapist remains in your ear, as techniques are carried out in real time with children. Providing solutions to struggles that can be carried out without confusion, because someone walks you through the steps during the interaction. The program sounded productive for the improvement of many situations.
There was a thought continuing to bounce around my mind during the meeting. There would seem to be an impact of PCIT on the organization. An impact of having therapists around on a daily basis. Part of our conversation centered around this concept. The ladies did talk about their ability to run things by one of the therapist. An impromptu conversation around the watercooler about something of curiosity. However, it seemed to go beyond just the casual conversation in the hallway. Finding out through conversation in the meeting of therapist interaction. During the weekly meeting for the Early Intervention team, a therapist was part of the interaction. Possibly giving suggestion or providing information to those working with families in their early stages. Tools that may help them while involved in an in-home therapy session. Helping parents guide their children in the best of manners. Helping them work through tense situations that may arise in the home. My question to the group was whether they felt having the therapist around impacted the organization. They seemed to feel as though it did have a positive impact. My curiosity stemmed from the unique nature of the program. The added dimension appears to enhance the way Encompass can care for their families. It was something special to learn.
The meeting with Encompass went really well. They are an organization who truly cares about the community they serve. A community which covers great distance in relation to miles. The rural parts of our area tucked against the foothills of the cascade mountains. One of my fascinations going into the meeting was how much area does Encompass cover. As their personnel in Early Intervention would be called upon for in-home visits. Finding out they travel up the I-90 corridor to the Snoqualmie Summit, while also traveling up highway 2 providing service to the town of Skykomish. Encompass moves great distances to assist families with special needs children. The organization works diligently to provide for the rural communities. Not only adding PCIT, but also ParentChild+, which helps with early literacy for low income families. They work with books and toys in the family home. Helping parents with the education of their children. As parents are the first teacher of their children. The benefits to the children emerging from this program are endless. Becoming more prepared to succeed in school along with exhibiting high social-emotional skills. It was an absolute pleasure to sit with the ladies of Encompass. Their kindness and knowledge filled the room, providing a feeling of comfort, as they surely give the families they serve. Providing them the resources needed to ensure the best start to their journey.
For more information please contact the ladies of Encompass:
Nela Cumming, Executive Director
Rochelle Clayton Strunk, Programs Director
Melissa Hammond, Early Intervention Program Director
For more information about resources on cerebral palsy improvement please contact:
Peter R. Turner at CPWithUs consulting