Shelley Cox - Member of the Month

Shelley CoxIDA would like to congratulate Shelley Cox as the IDA member of the month and thank her for her many years of membership and service to IDA. Shelley has had many roles on the IDA Board of Directors, including local and state chair. However, during her tenure, she is most proud of her work on IDA conferences and the expansion of the newsletter. IDA honors Shelley for her service to IDA and for her support and services to children and families as founder/owner of Step-by-Step Early Childhood Development Programs (Step by Step) and founder/developer of EDU-Ther-a-Play (TM). IDA is pleased to recognize Shelley as she begins the next chapter of her life in retirement.

Shelley's entry into the EI world
Shelley identified herself first as the mother of three wonderful adult children sharing her oldest daughter, Christina, who has cerebral palsy, changed her life from the time she was born. At that time, Shelley was living in San Diego and received incredible support and intervention for Cristina through Project Hope. She discussed how helpful it was to have their peer parent program and to meet with other parents, in addition to their excellent team of specialists.
Shelley pursued a bachelor's degree in child development, emphasizing special education at San Diego state. When she finished the program, she became a peer parent, and she started working for Project Hope as a home visitor. Shelley's involvement led her to an ICC (Interagency Coordinating Council) appointment as a parent representative, where she served for 7 years. Shelley felt it was an incredible experience learning about policy and legislation. Through the ICC experience, she was involved in developing the family resources centers across California and a co-founder of the San Diego Exceptional Resource centers in San Diego.

In the early nineties, Shelley moved to Malibu to help her parents when their family home burned down. Shelley's continued commitment to establishing the Family Resource Centers led her to work with the Koch-Young Family Resource Center, helping to establish their parent-to-parent training. Following this, Shelley moved over to the Westside Regional Center FRC to help further their development.

Back to working with babies
Shelley is a constant learner. She completed a master's degree in counseling and a second master's in pre-and perinatal psychology and coursework in a Ph.D. program in pre-and perinatal psychology. In 1997, Shelley decided she wanted to return working with babies and started Step by Step, which was initially targeted to babies and toddlers needing early intervention. Over the 30 years, Step by Step has expanded its range of programs beginning with a social skills program for three-year-olds, aging out of early intervention, parent education programs, special education programs, and onward to work with the families throughout their children's lifespan. Shelley is a champion of the importance of relationship-based early intervention. She estimates being in contact with more than 50 families whose children started working in early intervention and are moving into adulthood or now adults. Shelley says, "I see them as more of an extended family," exemplifying her tremendous heart.

Speaking of babies, Shelley is looking forward to welcoming her first grandchild this summer. As Shelley moves into retirement as the director of Step by Step, she is now exploring using her pre and perinatal knowledge to work with families expecting and having an early diagnosis prenatally. She wants to help them find resources when their babies are born, which seems to be a full circle to her peer parent support days at Project Hope. She will share her expertise in prenatal communication, which is communicating your intent for a happy and healthy birth and providing a positive reduced stress environment since we know that stress can negatively affect childbirth. Other areas of knowledge are Shelley’s work with unexpected pregnancies and second sibling pregnancies when the first child is diagnosed with a disability.
Perspectives on Early Intervention Today and Advice to New Clinicians

Shelley shared her perspectives on early intervention today compared to when she started in the field. She feels that although it can be challenging to bring together so many different people who have different frames of reference, there is a place for everyone's voice in early intervention. There is no right way to be perfect with a family and a baby because it is dependent on what the family is looking for.

As far as what needs to be improved, Shelley feels that we need to do better with Child Find. Shelley remarked, “The problem with Child Find is that families have to know information before they know the information to get services.” Shelley sees herself as a family advocate in sharing information with families on what services are available. She feels that once families are in early intervention, we are doing a great job in providing and expanding services. Shelley shared that she feels that “IDA is the glue that holds early intervention together behind the scenes in California.” Her vision is that we can continue the social component of IDA, where like-minded individuals brainstorm and envision the future for babies in California. She would also like to see IDA bring back the parent component and hear directly from the parents about their needs.

Her advice to new clinicians is to “remember that you are not providing an hour of intervention in isolation. You work with the baby and family and the community of people who encompass that child. There needs to be comprehensive collaboration among professionals in the community serving that child and family. You need to be open to working collaboratively because your work will go further if you know what other professionals are doing as well and if the family feels surrounded by support. One way to do this is by empowering the family to ask for that collaboration.”

Thanks, Shelley, for all your contributions to IDA and the early intervention field.