Spotlight on……Dr. Feigi Halberstam AuD. CCC SLP/A SBL
Business Name and Position: Omni, Founder and Executive Director of Omni Childhood Center
Years in Business: Since it was founded in 2001, over 20 years
Number of Employees: Over 300
What services do you provide?
Omni Childhood Center provides early intervention (ages 0-3), and we offer evaluations in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, Spanish, Mandarin, and Cantonese. Services in early intervention include: speech and language therapy, applied behavior analysis (ABA), special instruction, occupational therapy, physical therapy, counseling, and hearing tests. In CPSE (Committee on Preschool Special Education, ages 3-5) we provide evaluations and special education itinerant teacher services (SEIT) in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, and Spanish.
Why is it so important to have children ages 0-3 and 3-5 evaluated? Won’t they eventually catch up anyways?
The earlier a child is evaluated for learning or developmental difficulties and the sooner intervention begins, the more likely it is for the child to gain the necessary skills to help them succeed. Depending on the severity of the delay and when the problem was discovered will determine if and when the child will catch up. The hope is that with the appropriate interventions, most children will make progress and gain the tools they need to be successful throughout their growing years.
How can parents tell if their child is delayed?
Some parents notice delays on their own by comparing their children’s development to others around them. However, there are specific milestones parents should be aware of throughout their child’s development. Omni provides guidance on the appropriate milestone on our new OCC Website (www.omnichildhoodcenter.com).
What are some signs your evaluators are looking for when determining a delay?
All of Omni Childhood Center’s evaluators are certified and use specialized and approved testing materials and guidelines in order to determine any delays. In addition to these testing materials, it is of utmost importance to listen to what the parents, teachers and caregivers have to say about the child. This information is very valuable in allowing the evaluators to paint a complete picture of the child in order to determine if there is a delay that warrants services. Ultimately, whether or not they are approved for services is up to the Department of Health and the Department of Education.
Have you had to adapt your services due to COVID-19?
Most definitely. Evaluators and providers have been available for remote sessions through zoom and telephone sessions as well, when necessary and allowed. Our dedicated and professional providers and staff have been on the frontlines and 90% have returned to work in person for the benefit of the children they work with. They have endured multiple shutdowns, remote learning, additional testing and have taken all precautions necessary. They are the true heroes of this story.
Are you seeing an increase or decrease in clients due to the pandemic?
Initially, there was a large decrease due to COVID-19. However, in the recent months, things have slowly been increasing. There has been a larger influx in evaluations, probably due to the initial lull.
How has quarantining, lack of social interactions, and schools being closed impacted early childhood education?
The lack of social interactions and absence from the classroom setting are really causing children to suffer. It is having an adverse effect on their social emotional and adaptive development.
Can evaluations and sessions be done over Zoom?
Yes, they can be done over Zoom. We make accommodations for in person evaluations as well in a safe environment, following COVID-19 guidelines.
Has the government been more flexible with approving cases considering the current situation?
No. The government has been very clear that all regulations and guidelines must be followed, as usual. In fact, additional rules and regulations have been added for teletherapy evaluations and services.
How can children benefit by getting services before they even enter school age?
The best time for children to get services is before they enter school. The younger they are, the easier it is to close the gap. Once they enter school, they are flooded with new information that is difficult enough to navigate with a disability. The sooner therapy starts, the better chance a child has to integrate into a mainstream classroom.
How do you keep your employees up to date with the latest research?
Omni Childhood Center offers professional development to our providers with the latest research-based information and how to best implement that into their sessions. We post new information on our website and our supervisors meet with the therapists to ensure they are aware of and are correctly implementing all new regulations and innovations.
Some parents have been complaining they cannot find therapists for their child. Is there a shortage or just an increase in demand?
There is both a shortage of therapists and an increase in demand since more and more parents are very savvy and understand when their children require intervention.
How do you involve parents and or the school in the sessions?
Parents can join in the sessions either in person or remotely. Our therapists practice embedded coaching, which allows the parents tools to be able to carry over what is done in the therapy session. If therapy is provided in the schools, the therapist has open communication with the teacher so that goals can be carried over to the classroom and at home. Additionally, the teacher can report progress and/or any other necessary information.
How is Omni Childhood Center different than the other agencies out there?
Many agencies are filled with caring professionals. Omni strives for excellence in everything we do. Our goal is to always go the ‘extra mile’ by treating the children and parents with utmost respect. We want the best for every child and we consider both the parents and the children as part of the Omni family.
Is it ever too early or late to get services?
No. However, the earlier, the better.