It takes Alexzander Blamer a long time to warm up to new people.
But when Speech Therapist Janelle Pickens comes over for a visit, he runs right up to her to excitedly show her his toys.
The Newark 2-year-old has come a long way since he started the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ Early Intervention program in March.
He’s using more words, signing and seems to be gaining confidence, said his mother Alyssa Blamer.
“(Early Intervention) has definitely given me more resources,” Alyssa said. “Before, I wasn’t sure what to do.”
Alexzander is the middle child in his family and after his first birthday, his parents, Alyssa and Justin, realized he wasn’t developing the way his sisters, Addalynn and Addison, were.
Not only was he incredibly shy and anxious, but he wasn’t using words to communicate. Sometimes it seemed like he was having trouble understanding directions.
After his 18-month appointment, his pediatrician made a referral to Early Intervention.
LCBDD offers Early Intervention (EI) services in the homes of children, birth to age 3, with developmental delays, disabilities or medical conditions likely to result in delays. Services are provided at no cost to Licking County families.
Alexzander started his EI journey at a unique time. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their family began meeting with Janelle virtually for speech therapy.
At first Alexzander was very shy when Janelle appeared on Zoom and it was hard for him to focus. But Alyssa and Janelle worked together to find activities to keep him engaged.
In June, LCBDD began allowing EI team members to return to in-person visits, at the request of families. That really helped Alexzander come out of his shell.
“(Janelle) gave me resources to encourage the sounds he’s making and the words he’s trying to say,” Alyssa said. “I think once he gets that inner confidence, he will flourish to talk.”
They decided to use sign language to bridge the gap, until Alexzander feels more comfortable using words.
Janelle helps Alyssa teach signs to Addalyn, because Alexzander loves to imitate and learn from his big sister.
Being around his siblings and his toys during visits has helped Alexzander feel more comfortable, Alyssa said. She also appreciates the schedule flexibility Early Intervention offers.
“It’s cool she can go with us anywhere in Licking County,” she said. “She can see how he interacts in different environments.”
Not only has Janelle worked with Alexzander during play time at home but she has also come over at meal time. Once they had a visit at a hotel, while Alexzander was visiting his grandma.
Janelle’s visits aren’t just helping Alexzander, Alyssa said. She’s been an emotional support for the whole family.
“At first it was hard, I worried that this was my fault,” she said. “But I learned it wasn’t. He’s Alexzander, it’s just how he is. He needs things done differently.”
With Janelle’s support, the Blamers are exploring a diagnosis of selective mutism for Alexzander. As they gain more answers, they are also brainstorming ways to get him more involved in sports, classes and activities with other kids.
Alyssa said she’s thankful for all the information Janelle has shared and is looking forward to them coming up with new ways to help Alexzander feel proud of himself.
“It’s definitely been a learning experience and I’m glad we can do it together,” she said.
For more information about Early Intervention in Licking County, go to https://lcountydd.org/birth-to-3/. To make an EI referral, please call 614-656-3322. You can also make a secure online referral at http://bit.ly/ReferToHMG.