The new speech-language pathologist (SLP) at Sunflower Diversified Services understands that the first three years of life are critical to overall development and is using her skills to help children ages birth to 3.
Heather Hoffman, a Great Bend native and certified SLP, recently joined the staffs at Sunflower’s Early Education Center (EEC) and Incredible Years Preschool.
“I work with the little ones in their natural environments,” Hoffman said. “This means going to their homes, day-care centers, our preschool or any other setting that is appropriate.”
Hoffman’s responsibilities include working with families that have children with speech and language delays, swallowing and feeding difficulties, hearing impairments and/or social-communication concerns.
“It is so rewarding for all of us to see the impact we have on children at such an early age,” Hoffman commented. “It is clear that a child’s brain develops exponentially in the first three years of life. It is a critical time for communicative and cognitive growth.
“If children receive early intervention services before age 3, it may reduce or even eliminate the need for ongoing services as they enter school,” Hoffman added.
Hoffman graduated from Great Bend High School in 2004, and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Kansas State University.
She began her career as an SLP in an assisted-living/skilled nursing facility in Wichita before pursuing her long-time goal of working with children. Hoffman worked in the Circle School District before returning home to Great Bend.
“These were all great experiences, but I wanted to move back home to be with my family,” Hoffman said. “I am so pleased this position was available at Sunflower. Our early ed center and preschool provide exceptional programs for young children. I look forward to reaching out and serving so many families in the surrounding communities.”
Cathy Estes, Sunflower’s children’s services coordinator, said she is excited to have Hoffman on the team, especially because the greatest early developmental need is language communication.
“Since children develop on an individual basis, there is quite a range of time during which language development occurs,” Estes said. “Many children who need this intervention eventually will no longer need services.”
Evidence shows, Estes added, that early intervention emphasizes the team approach, which provides all services for the overall development of every eligible child under 3.
“Therefore, in addition to Heather’s SLP responsibilities, she is part of our team concept that provides services in all five developmental domains,” Estes said. “In addition to language communication, these include social-emotional issues, self-help, and motor and cognitive skills.
“Heather has adapted quickly to families’ needs, as well as this team concept,” Estes continued. “Her devotion to her job, coupled with sincere enthusiasm for families and children in the early developmental stages, makes Heather an invaluable addition to our team.”
Services at the EEC are free, while tuition is income-based at Incredible Years Preschool.