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January 28, 2009 10:13 AM

Effort To Save SD Birth To 3 Program


A group of parents is taking action to stop South Dakota lawmakers from cutting the Birth to 3 program.
It serves children with developmental delays by bringing therapists into the home, and one parent says repealing it would do more harm than good. 

Eleven-month-old Annabella Schieffer of Sioux Falls is as sweet as she is smiley. You'd never know she spends several hours a week working nearly every part of her body to overcome the effects of Down syndrome. 

"Early intervention and Birth to 3 has made such a difference in her life, it really is incredible," Carmen Schieffer, Annabella’s mother, said. 

The Schieffers discovered the Down syndrome while Carmen was still pregnant and had plenty of time to prepare. Therapy for low-muscle tone began when Annabella was just ten days old, and the family has seen dramatic changes. 

"Low tone never really goes away, but through therapy, she's building up her strength. She can now sit independently and she can hold her head up. It's just made a huge difference," said Schieffer. 

When the family heard Birth to 3 may be slashed from the state budget, they wanted to find a way to save it. Over the weekend, the couple met with other parents, along with therapists and educators, and decided to band together and lobby against the cut. 

"Want to give a voice to children and families with special needs. We want to be advocates and raise awareness of the programs and services available," Schieffer said. 

The group is still trying to come up with a name, but the purpose is clear: To keep Birth to 3 up and running, no matter what it takes. 

"It's made such a difference in so many children's lives.  I can't imagine not having services, not having therapy, not having early intervention. It's just so important," said Schieffer. 

The group has another meeting planned for this Saturday morning, and has heard from 11 state lawmakers who plan to attend.

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