Since Jennifer Lambert’s son Carter was a few months old and she noticed he was having trouble rolling over, he and Lambert have been meeting with early childhood intervention specialists to address developmental delays.
Physical therapists and speech specialists have visited Lambert’s home in Windham, first in person and now via video, coaching her in ways to play with Carter, now almost 2, to improve his physical development and communication skills. Lambert learned how to teach him to speak and show him simple hand signs to express his needs.
“He’s come a long way,” Lambert said.
Through a state-funded program run by local nonprofits called Family-Centered Early Supports and Services, all children in New Hampshire up to age 3 are eligible for similar services to help with developmental delays — such as having trouble learning to speak, walk, or with fine motor skills — and with disabilities.
But since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of children who are being referred to these services has plummeted.
Across the state, 400 fewer children were referred to early-intervention services in 2020 than in 2019, said Nancy Lucci, who runs the early intervention program in the Exeter area through Waypoint. Lucci said in almost 15 years, she has never seen the number of referrals drop.