The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services vvv

Early Intervention 2008 Award Recipients

Mary DiSalvo, Early Interventionist of the YearMary DiSalvo - Early Interventionist of the Year Award

Mary is a strong proponent of the transdiciplinary model of service delivery to infants and toddlers and actively participates in the cross training of staff. Not only is she a highly skilled physical therapist but she is a highly skilled developmental therapist, comfortable addressing all areas of a child’s development. It is not unusual to see Mary signing to a child as she supports the parent during a feeding opportunity or coaching a parent through her child’s temper tantrum. A creative leader in the development of early intervention services in the natural environment, Mary has delivered services in the parking lot of Wal-Mart, in the pool at the YMCA, at local grocery stores, at many of the area playgrounds and parks, and at more than one McDonald’s play area. Her ongoing conversations with parents lead her to the site where the families are experiencing challenges. In addition to her dedication to families during the course of her day she often supports families in quiet ways, on her own time. She has given much of her own personal time and resources to many families over the course of her years of service. No matter how challenging a situation she faces with a family she stays with them until they can help themselves. This approach increases parents’ feelings of competency, leads to meaningful changes in the child’s development, and uses public resources efficiently.

Although comfortable and highly knowledgeable in the whole development of a child, Mary is the first to say “I don’t know it all” and will seek consultations from other team members as she needs them. Other team members look to her first for support and suggestions. She is usually called upon to take observers, students, and new staff with her on her home visits to demonstrate what early intervention is all about. She frequently gives in-service trainings to staff and groups or organizations in the community. Mary has abundant energy and is always looking for a new challenge. She recently drove to North Carolina over a very snowy weekend to take a two day workshop on coaching. Upon her return she immediately began to video herself with families to practice her skills. Because she is so committed to making parent coaching work for the staff she conducts a monthly in-service training for all of her coworkers which includes video taping and role playing. Mary DiSalvo is a highly regarded professional in our field, and Virginia’s early intervention system is very fortunate to have her.

Those who supported the nominee said “She is such a hard worker and so creative in trying to meet the kids where the kids are. She is fantastic. I can’t say enough about her!”

Laura Allen, Leadership winner Laura Allen - Leadership Award

Laura has been part of a group of early interventionists serving Chesterfield County who are piloting a protocol for children entering early intervention who have autism. This protocol seeks to help children and families find the support they need while still utilizing early intervention philosophy. A focus of this plan is creating supports within the child’s family, friends, and those who interact with the child on a regular basis to make sure that child is receiving opportunities to practice activities that will help them meet outcomes on the IFSP. Laura’s work with the Chesterfield Autism group is pointing us all in a new direction of looking at how we can serve these families, creating a means of the child having a higher intensity of intervention through their typical daily routines, using the people already in their lives to help them.

Laura has recently been appointed by Zero to Three as an Advocacy Leader for their Creating Connections for Babies Initiative. Laura will be working with counterparts across the United States, as well as at the state level with the Governor’s Early Childhood program to look at their relationships with early intervention, and possible system change.

Of this nominee, references said, She started in our program when she was in her Senior year of college as an intern. She was very quiet and reserved and she has just grown into this very poised, very confident person; from student to national advocate. We are so proud!’

Winners Mary and Laura EI Award Recipients Mary and Laura  






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