RIVER PHILIP – Visitors are greeted with enthusiasm at the Mazur home in River Philip. Five-year old Sophie and two-year old Carrie don’t take long to say hello after mom Elaine lets you in.
The living room is a child-friendly space. Clean laminate floors reflect the sun; a perfect place for Sophie’s twirls or a warm spot should Carrie decide to do a cat impression. And on the wall, shelves of toys surround the television.
Elaine has invited a stranger into the house she shares with her husband and three kids to talk about her children and the help they’ve received from the Cumberland Early Intervention Program. The executive director of the program, Erin Perry, also made the drive to the Oxford area. There’s no secret: CEIP’s ‘SMILE’ walk-run is being held this Saturday, and Perry hopes to drum up some publicity.
They need money. About $60,000 each year.
“She’s come a long way,” said Elaine.
The mother was talking about her eldest child, Emily. The girl wasn’t in the house. She attends school, integrated into the regular stream of class activities.
Emily was a busy kid, even unmanageable, according to her mother. At age three she couldn’t answer a yes or no question. Outsiders and family wondered if it was a parenting issue – Elaine wondered if it was a parenting issue – until the little girl was diagnosed with autism.
Perry worked with the child every other week. Now she’s in Grade 2. She has friends at school and her communication is great, said Elaine.
CEIP’s core program receives funding for 35 to 40 kids, said Perry, but has another 55 on its waitlist. Extra funds raised for additional programming help meet the needs of waitlisted kids and others.
Elaine’s two oldest participate in the SMILE program every Saturday morning. More than 50 kids and young adults with special needs – physical, mental and/or social – are paired on a one-to-one basis with a Mount Allison student for an hour of gym activities and an hour in the pool.
“They just all come together and have a (good) time,” said Perry.
Elaine is working with her middle child, Sophie. Given Emily’s history, when Sophie started manifesting communication issues, the mother began consulting with CEIP. The agency helps with phone consultations and helping Elaine access the services she requires.
“(Elaine’s) pretty self-sufficient,” said Perry, and Sophie’s needs aren’t as high as Emily’s.
Sophie and Carrie are charming and talkative. They play on the floor with Perry, and offer drinks of imaginary tea to the man at the table writing in a notebook.
Sophie doesn’t hesitate when asked her favourite part of being in the SMILE program.
“Playing in the gym,” she said.
She even has a best friend at the weekly gathering, a little boy not much younger than her.
“He plays the same games I like,” she said.
The ‘4th Annual CEIP SMILE 5 & 10 km Walk/Run’ starts from 62 York St., in Sackville, N.B. Registration opens at 9 a.m. and the race beings at 10 a.m. Runs are timed and competitive. Runners are encouraged to collect pledges. Registration is online through the website of the event’s sponsor, Running Room.