As state lawmakers continue to introduce and debate policies they believe would benefit Mississippi’s citizens, one senator has proposed legislation aimed at improving the lives of children with special needs.
Senator Nicole Akins Boyd, R-Oxford, has introduced Senate Bill 2167 which is known as the “Early Intervention Pilot Project.” The bill would pave a pathway to evaluate the benefits of reorganizing the state’s current early intervention program, First Steps.
According to Boyd, who chairs the Senate study group on women, children, and families, Mississippi is lacking in terms of its early intervention services. The senator claimed that a little more than 1,500 children were served in the state in 2022, even though statistics indicated that between 10,000 and 12,000 were in need of early intervention services.
In order to bridge that gap, Boyd is looking to create a panel of state officials, university faculty members, parents, pediatricians, psychologists, and representatives from local nonprofits to work within the T.K. Martin Center at Mississippi State University. The task force would develop recommendations for potential reforms with the goal of expanding access to early intervention services.
“It’s a really important program and we’re not doing a good job on this. The statistics came out that we were one of the worst in the country of what we’re really doing on this,” Boyd said on MidDays with Gerard Gibert. “We have created kind of a pilot program to see how we can run a different model of this that would be more of a university-based system.”
Boyd argues that the benefits of these services at an early age of a child’s life can be life-changing to recipients. She says that the number of students in need of special education services in schools would be reduced if many of the childrens’ disabilities happened to be addressed and worked on as soon as they were discovered.
“It diminishes those childrens’ disabilities. If they have a speech impediment, if they have OT (occupational therapy) needs, if they have PT (physical therapy) needs — what it does is it works with those children at a very young age while you literally can re-map the brain,” Boyd added. “Studies have shown that you greatly can diminish the number of children that are going to need special education services when they go into the traditional education setting if you intervene early.”
Skeptics of the motion have reached out to Boyd in fear that their jobs may be on the line if the bill were to pass. The senator assures those individuals that the demand for work outnumbers the supply and that she is not looking to eliminate anybody’s occupation in the early intervention field.
Watch the full interview with Senator Boyd below.
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