USU’S Up to 3 program goes 100% virtual during pandemic

Utah State University's Up to 3 program has transitioned to 100% virtual during the pandemic

LOGAN – The mission of the Up to 3 early intervention program at Utah State University is to promote the development of children, under the age of 3, who have any type of disability.

Marla Nef, Up to 3 program coordinator, said the goal is to help parents help their children to develop and grow the way that typical children would.

Stephanie Hawkins poses with her daughter, Rylee.

“We have physical therapists and occupational therapists and speech therapists and specialists who work with children with autism so that we can address the needs that young children have that they may not be acquiring in a typical way,” Nef explained.

Nef said after 30 years going into the homes of families and providing services, with the start of the pandemic, Up to 3 is now all online.

“The Zoom platform allows us to give parents the control and they sign,” she added. “The hardest part, I think, for families is that they miss having us come to their homes and do hands on with their children.

“It also has changed some things for families and therapists, because now families are the hands on, and the therapist is on the other side of the screen, really coaching, saying ‘now try this’.”

Up to 3 is housed in the USU Center for Persons With Disabilities and provides services to children and families living in Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties.

The format has its challenges, said Stephanie Hawkins of Logan. Her 21-month-old daughter, Rylee, has Down syndrome. Rylee has been enrolled in Up to 3 since before she was 1 month old.

Stephanie does miss having a therapist coming into the home and assessing how Rylee is doing.

“Now it’s more me telling [the occupational therapist] if she’s doing certain things,” Stephanie said. “It’s harder, but they’ve just been awesome.”

The shift to online services hasn’t really changed Stephanie’s focus.

I’ve always looked at it as more them teaching me,” she said. “It’s an adjustment… I like in-person better, but I still feel like I get a lot out of it.”

For a free evaluation, parents may call 435-797-3727.

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