Program Spotlight: Infant Family Program – Meet Lynette, Program Manager! #EPU40

The Infant Family Program:  Meet Lynette Ratzlaff, IFP Program Manager

Hi, I’m Lynette Ratzlaff and I’m the new Program Manager of the Infant Family Program (IFP) at EPU which is made up of 16 Early Childhood Specialists, two Occupational Therapists, one Physical Therapist, and two Speech Therapists.

I’m coming to the IFP program with over 20 years of experience working with young children who have special needs.  I have a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education and am a certified trainer in a handful of early care giving programs.  I am a mother of two children, a grandmother of three grandsons and a weekend quilter!

IFP was established in 1979 to provide early intervention services to children zero to three years of age who are identified with disabilities or conditions that are known to impact development.

Children who are suspected to have a developmental delay are assessed at Central Valley Regional Center (CVRC).  The children identified as having delays are then referred to the IFP program.  The family is contacted by an EPU representative and through conversations with the family, services are implemented based on the unique needs of each child and family.  These services are guided by an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) which is a formalized plan set by the family, interventionist, and representatives from CVRC.  Each family and child in the Infant Family Program at EPU is assigned an Early Childhood Specialist who is the primary contact person working closest to the family and child.  The Early Childhood Specialist makes sure all the goals of the IFSP are met.  Services to the child and family always include one-to-one early intervention services with the child and may also include speech, physical and occupational therapy as well as parent support.  EPU offers parent advocacy as well as parent trainings in a variety of topics that may be needed as the child grows and as the family adapts to having a child with special needs.  At the age of three years, each family is assisted in finding appropriate services for their child through the schools or through other community resources.

Almost one out of every 10 children in Fresno County will be identified with a special need by the time they reach school age.  In looking toward meeting the growing needs of Fresno County, we are hoping to expand on our Tot Talk speech groups as well as add more Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support (SCERTS) children’s groups to our IFP services.  Tot Talk speech groups meet the needs of toddlers as they begin to learn to communicate with their peers.  IFP staff are trained in the SCERTS model of intervention which is an approach designed to teach children with Autism and other social-emotional delays to become competent social communicators.

In my first several months here at EPU I have been completely amazed at the passion that the IFP staff have for their job.  They approach each family and child as being incredibly valuable and are completely convinced that they can make a huge difference in the lives of the children that they work with… and they do!  I’ve had families catch me in the halls or phone me to rave about their Early Childhood Specialist.  I’ve read thank you notes from families who came to EPU in crisis, telling how they were met with a calm early intervention specialist who gave them strategies to work with their child and who simply listened when they were emotionally drained.  As I’m walking the halls of EPU, I hear interventionists tell parents that their child is beautiful because in the eyes of EPU each child is beautiful.