Honoring a Terrific Kids Who Count Employee-Peggie Lara

There are a number of ways that people choose their profession or vocation.

There are those who decide at a young age what they want to be, pursue it and do it until they retire.

Others may make the same choices and have the same pursuit and later realize it wasn’t what they wanted and do something else. Then, there is the group that really didn’t have a set course and are lucky enough to stumble into the perfect job with the perfect employer at the perfect time.

I think that is likely the case with Peggie Lara.

I do not know for sure if 27 years ago, Peggie joined the Kids Who Count team, an early intervention program in Nebo School District, purposefully or if she stumbled on to it by answering an ad. Regardless of what took her there, she has spent the last 27 years of her life making it purposeful.

When she joined Kids Who Count, the field of developmental disabilities had a lot fewer opportunities for employment, but Peggie stepped in and quickly found her place. She started by providing direct services to the Spanish-speaking families and conducting intake visits in their homes. She worked in other capacities and has been credited with contributing greatly to the success of the early intervention program. She understands the concerns of parents of children with disabilities and was able to communicate with them warmth, compassion and expediently scheduling initial evaluations.

Peggie worked with Latino and Hispanic families by creating meaningful connections with the community and ensured inclusion. She also expanded cultural awareness within the Kids Who Count team. Peggie has agreed to continue to facilitate the “Learning with Books and Play” class for Spanish-speaking families.

“Learning with Books and Play” is one of many programs offered through Kids Who Count and is co-sponsored through United Way. This is a fun and interactive class for Spanish-speaking children and families in the community. The class will meet on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Kids Who Count building in Salem. The children will learn how to combine literacy and hands-on play to support learning and how to build in the four areas of child development: cognitive, physical, language and social-emotional. Information can be found at

It is unique for employees to commit to a job and stay for so many years,’ said Kelsey Lewis, executive director of Kids Who Count. “The longevity and dedication of employees like Peggie, make Kids Who Count more than a team. We’re a family and it’s hard to imagine this family without Peggie.”

Melanie Linford, associate director of Kids Who Count, added, “Peggie is an intelligent, kind and happy person. Thank you for the many years of hard work and dedication.”

By today’s standards, twenty-seven years is a long time to stay in one job with one company. Peggie’s longevity in this field and with Kids Who Count is a testimony to the value of serving others. She is a reminder of one of my favorite quotes by St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Peggie, you undoubtedly did great things for many people with great love. Enjoy your retirement.

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Holly BushnellHonoring a Terrific Kids Who Count Employee-Peggie Lara
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Five Fun Winter Activities for Kids with Special Needs

How to make learning fun when it’s cold outside


Winter can be a challenging time for parents and kids with special needs. Now that holidays are over and routines are returning, you may need some fresh ideas to fend off the chill. So, if you and your kiddos have a bit of cabin fever this winter, here are five ideas for activities you can try to pass a long winter’s day.

1-Use snow for sensory experiences

Winter is the perfect time to take advantage of some frosty, sensory playtime. Make a point of experiencing the cold and lightness of snow by making snowballs, tiny snowmen, or snow angels. You can help your child practice their vocabulary during the activity by naming the winter words: cold, white, snow, snowball, frozen, etc.

It’s also fun to try snow painting by filling squeezable bottles or spray bottles with water colored with food coloring. Add enough color to make a dark contrast in the snow and then let your littles spray or squeeze out a snowy masterpiece. Practice saying all the colors as you paint.

Another idea is to fill balloons with that darkly colored water and leave them outside overnight. In the morning you can peal the balloon off the frozen water and have beautiful colored orbs to decorate your yard. Kids will like watching to see if the colored balls eventually melt into painted puddles. You can practice words like: frozen, freeze, balloon, pretty, and colors.

2-Put together a fort-building kit

Gather some old sheets, blankets, pillows, cardboard, clothespins and yarn in a big laundry basket. Let the kids use their imaginations to build forts between chairs or behind couches. Don’t be afraid to get involved with the fort building, especially if your child is small or has special needs. Having a flashlight or battery powered candle will make the fort cozy. You can bring in your child’s favorite books, games, or sensory bins to spend a cozy afternoon in their soft, blanket clubhouse. While building, or once inside, you can practice vocabulary by talking about the activities. Have your child use words like: fort, blanket, pillow, hide, cozy, help, build, or other fun words. Oh, and don’t forget the snacks!

3-Create a discovery bag

Find a few items at your local dollar store, or around your house, to fit in a box, bag, or pillowcase. Try to find quiet time items that your child can use with less supervision like puzzles, fidgets, books, or sensory toys with a distinct shape (ball, blocks, car, shoe, cup, or spoon.) Then, you can hide (even in plain sight) the items around the house in scavenger-hunt style to have your child “discover” the items you suggest they find. Your child could play with each item until they lose interest and then move on to the next item to find.

Another way to play would be to look for the objects with real or pretend binoculars or a flashlight. When they find the object, practice saying the name using simple phrases such as “I see _______” to work on language development.

4-Make a winter sensory bag

Making a bag filled with sensory items is a fun way to experience winter without a lot of mess. Fill a large zip close bag with about a cup of inexpensive clear hair gel. Then add small marshmallows, glitter, tapioca balls, and little cotton balls.  You can also look around your house for small craft items or little alphabet letters that would be fun to squeeze or find in the goo. Seal the bag up tight (you might want to reinforce with tape to be sure it doesn’t spring a leak). Then your child can squish and paint and smoosh to their hearts content. If you keep the bag in the refrigerator the contents are cool for an additional sensory experience. This is a great vocabulary activity as well. Simply practice naming each of the items inside the bag.

5-Set up an indoor obstacle course

Remember “the floor is hot lava” game from your childhood? It’s fun to set up an obstacle course over stools and under tables, around chairs and through tunnels made with blankets. Use towels as free spaces or islands and pillows for resting spots. You can also set up rows of blocks to navigate around or a path with rags for jumping. Dodging around obstacles helps your kids develop their motor skills and can create hours of active fun. Practice naming actions like: jump, help, move, run, and rest. You can also practice imaginative concepts such as hot, burn, volcano, lava, and pretend.

What other activities have you thought of to keep kids busy and engaged during the winter weeks? Please share your ideas in the comments below.


Written on January 10, 2019 by Darla Davis, SLP

Darla Davis is a Speech Language Pathologist with Kids Who Count, a non-profit, early intervention program serving families within the boundaries of the Nebo School District in Central Utah. Darla coaches parents and caregivers at home to help them find learning opportunities in their child’s daily routines. She focuses on increasing expressive language skills such as gestures, sign language, pictures, augmentative communication systems, spoken language or receptive language skills like understanding and following directions. The speech services with Kids Who Count help children develop oral motor skills related to both speaking and eating.

To learn more about Kids Who Count please visit or call 801.423.3000.

Kids Who Count


Holly BushnellFive Fun Winter Activities for Kids with Special Needs
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Utah Nonprofits Hoping for Help on #GivingTuesday

Utah nonprofits hoping for help on #GivingTuesday

After a weekend of getting and gifting, Tuesday marks a bit of a kick-off for the giving side of the holiday season.

Giving Tuesday is a national movement that promotes donating to local and national charities. Also known as #GivingTuesday, the day started in 2012 as a way to encourage people to get involved in their local communities and donate time, money or resources.

For the small team behind Kids Who Count, a Salem nonprofit, this is their first year participating in #GivingTuesday. Kids Who Count serves children in the Nebo School District area with early intervention programs for those with developmental disabilities. The organization is new to fundraising, as it has held a federal early intervention grant since 1986, which helps provide the needed services. Because of Utah’s growth in the last few years, though, the organization needs additional funds, says Kelsey Lewis, executive director of Kids Who Count.

“The number of children needing services exceeds our capacity. In the past five years we’ve seen a 40 percent increase in the number of children we’re serving,” she said in a phone interview last week, explaining that the resources from the grant have remained fairly static during that same timeframe. “We’re looking for ways to scale up our program to better match the needs of our community.”

Lewis said they are hoping to raise funds to expand their autism program, offering more therapy for longer periods of time. They have also outgrown their building at 345 N. State Road 198 in Salem, and hope to remodel and expand it.

Lewis said Friday early donations to the Kids Who Count campaign had already hit about $1,000. She is hoping to reach $5,000 by Tuesday.

“But it doesn’t have to happen all on Giving Tuesday. If we can create some awareness in the community with this, that would be good. We need community support for our programs to continue to make it happen,” she said. “It will be fun to see how this first campaign goes.”


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Holly BushnellUtah Nonprofits Hoping for Help on #GivingTuesday
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Utah Jazz arena adds ‘sensory room’

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert joins children and their families in the new Sensory Room designed and built by Vivint Smart Home and the Utah Jazz

Vivint Smart Home Arena can explode with noise when Rudy Gobert slams home a thunderous dunk or when Donovan Mitchell drills a 3-pointer from just short of midcourt.

Those decibel levels can be pretty overwhelming for children who have autism or other neurodiverse conditions. So the arena sponsor’s philanthropic arm, Vivint Gives Back, installed a “sensory room,” where kids and individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities can go to cool off.

“This space is about kids and families,” said Nate Randle, Vivint Smart Home’s chief marketing officer. “To know there’s a spot where it’s quiet, and that Mom or Dad could bring a kid here for 15 to 20 minutes to settle down without having the leave the game, people are excited about that.”



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We are so fortunate to work with wonderful children and families. We want to celebrate with all of you. If you are currently receiving services from Kids Who Count, please join us for our annual family picnic at Salem Pond on Monday, August 28th from 6:00 to 7:30 pm. Dinner will be served so you must RSVP. PLEASE CALL 801.423.3000 TO RSVP BY 8/18!

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Their Voice: Kids Who Count celebrates 30 years of early intervention

Daily Herald Article:

Last week I received an invitation in the mail to attend the Kids Who Count 30th anniversary celebration Tuesday evening. I have written several times about Kids Who Count, an early intervention program funded by the Health Department and serving the Nebo School District area. Early intervention provides a multitude of services for newborn children through age 3 and their families.

Last week I received an invitation in the mail to attend the Kids Who Count 30th anniversary celebration Tuesday evening. I have written several times about Kids Who Count, an early intervention program funded by the Health Department and serving the Nebo School District area. Early intervention provides a multitude of services for newborn children through age 3 and their families.

As I was driving to the open house I couldn’t help but think that 30 years ago when the Americans with Disabilities Act was still a concept, Susie Parrett was in Salem, Utah, just looking for a way to help her two children who had both experienced a head injury.

“I had no intention to start anything,” reflects Parrett. “I just wanted to get some help for my kids.”

Instead, with prompting from the Health Department, Susie started Kids Who Count in the basement of the San Andres Catholic Church in Payson. The six children who started 30 years ago have now turned into 270 who are currently being served.

“We know there are a lot more who need our services,” says Kelsey Lewis, executive director of Kids Who Count. “We really wish we could reach out to all of them.”

The celebration consisted of bouncy houses, games, pizza, snow cones, popcorn and a lot of great conversation and recollection of wonderful memories. Many of the children in attendance are still in the program, and many more have completed early intervention and progressed to the Special Ed Program through Nebo School District. Some of the children are now adults.

One particular mother who made sure she attended was Cheltsy Moore. Cheltsy’s son, Brody, entered the Kids Who Count program in 2011. Brody was born 10 weeks early and was at Primary Children’s Hospital until October that year. When it was time for Brody to go home, a coordinator from Primary Children’s Hospital set up a conference call with his parents and Mary Walker, a nurse at Kids Who Count.

“When it was finally time to take Brody home, we were both excited and nervous. We had been warned so much about germs and taking him out that we weren’t really sure what to do. He was still connected to a lot of tubes,” Moore recalls.

Luckily for the Moores, nurses from Kids Who Count started coming in to check on him right away. “Brody wasn’t even able to turn his head when he came home,” Moore recalls. “Mary and other therapists were able to teach him to turn his head, sit up and eventually walk in his walker.”

Services through Kids Who Count included physical therapy, swimming (which Brody really loved), speech therapy and weight checks, while they were working with his physicians to get him to eat. Since the Moores’ insurance could only pay for 20 services a year, Kids Who Count was able to bridge the gap and give him the services that he needed.

Additionally, the therapists were able to work with the family and teach them the things they need to know to continue the sessions daily.  It was refreshing for Brody’s parents to work with individuals who were able to fully understand his diagnosis and knew exactly what they were talking about.

Brody finished the Kids Who Count program when he turned three and advanced to the Special Education program. However, for the Moores and other families involved in early intervention, the relationships did not stop.

“The staff at Kids Who Count become like family,” says Moore. “Since they come to your house instead of making you go to them, they get to know everyone. My other children also looked forward to the visits from the therapists and staff.”

Cheltsy might not have realized how close the people from Kids Who Count really were to her family until a year ago, when Brody unexpectedly passed away from complications of his condition.

“They all come to the funeral to show their support and I understood that my loss was also their loss,” Moore says. “Sometimes we will go to the cemetery and find little notes from them on his headstone.”

I imagine that attending the anniversary celebration this week was not easy for Cheltsy, but she went anyway to show her support and appreciation for the program and staff whom she still sees as part of her family.

So it is on behalf of Cheltsy, Brody, and the hundreds of other families who are connected to this program that I congratulate the Kids Who Count program on all of their successes. From Susie Parrett to the current organization, I hope that you are always able to continue the support that you provide for our small community.

Holly BushnellTheir Voice: Kids Who Count celebrates 30 years of early intervention
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Participants in Early Intervention Programs Increasing, Funds Are Not

The Value of Early Intervention

VOICE, Herald Media

Tel Morris began walking at the age of 14 Participants post
months, just two months after his twin
brother Renn. What makes this story worth telling is that when their mother Lacey was 28 weeks pregnant, she was informed that Tel’s brain did not form properly. When the twins were born, the prognosis for Tel was dismal. Lacey was told that Tel probably wouldn’t walk or talk. Right on target for milestones, at six months his brother Renn started rolling over and crawling and Tel was not. That is when Lacey was referred to the Provo Early Intervention program.

“Baby Watch Early Intervention is a federal program under the Office of Special Education,” said Janet Wade, Senior Director of Family Support and Transition Services at Easter Seals-Goodwill. In Utah County there are three early intervention programs associated with the three school districts: Provo Early Intervention supports Provo School District, Kids on the Move for Alpine School District and Kids Who Count, located in Salem, which serves the population in Nebo School District. Services provided through early intervention programs are based on the needs of the child and the family and include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language therapy, nursing, a dietitian, developmental therapy and service coordination. Many of the services are provided in the home, and family members are trained to continue those services each day. The number of children who participated in early intervention in Utah County in 2013 was 2,611 and year to date for 2016 the numbers are already at 1,800. If these numbers continue to grow at this pace, an increase of 53 percent is anticipated by June of this year.

Despite these high figures, research shows that there are many children in this age group who are not yet receiving early intervention as only four percent of children between birth to three years old have received early intervention services, yet 12 percent of children in school have Individual Educational Plans (IEPs). The concern for all of the statewide early intervention programs is that there have been no increases in funding to the programs since 2013 regardless of the increasing numbers
requiring services. The fact that all eligible children must be given services makes it necessary to have the qualified staff to perform these services. “Ninety percent of our program costs go directly to staffing,” said Kelsey Lewis, MSW and Executive Director of Kids Who Count. “The only place that we can cut costs to coincide with the increase in children is to reduce our staff.” Janet Wade explains the impact. “That means instead of having a physical therapist visit a family twice a month, it will have to only be once a month,” she said. These decreases will ultimately reduce direct care and long-term outcomes and benefits of school readiness, social growth and independence are less likely to be achieved.

Additionally, fewer infants and toddlers may be determined eligible, restricting eligibility to children with the most severe risk of disabilities. Simply put, should we continue without the necessary funding, the social, educational and economic consequences are deferred to the future when they are most costly and less effective. The benefits of increasing funding to early intervention are evident. First from a monetary standpoint, statewide, 35 percent of children who had early intervention did not require
additional special educational pre-school services. The second is that since 85 percent of brain growth is developed by age three, it becomes more critical to intervene during these important years. Tel is a walking example to the benefits of early intervention. By receiving the services and equipment he needed, he was able to defy his early prognosis. The most important benefit to his family, however, was the ability to have a therapist come into their home and teach them the skills and techniques they could use as the performed the typical day to day tasks of taking care of him. In a couple of years, Tel and his twin brother Renn will be able to walk into elementary school together thanks to his experiences with early

If you or anyone you know has ever experienced the many benefits of early intervention, now is the time to contact your local legislators and encourage them to make the changes necessary to have these funds increased to meet the growing needs of our community.

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Early intervention makes all the difference

A celebration of success in Salem


Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 5.56.49 PMAugust 31 was a beautiful day for a picnic, specifically the picnic at the Salem Pond Park organized by the staff of Kids Who Count. Kids Who Count is an early intervention program in Salem that provides services to infants and toddlers living in the Nebo School District.

“It was the first picnic we have had in three years,” said Melanie Linford, the program’s associate director. “With approximately 200 children currently enrolled, the picnic gives their families and staff an opportunity to get to know each other.”

One of the families in attendance was that of a young man who had completed the program many years ago, but, like all of the children, has never been forgotten. His history with Kids Who Count began 13 years ago when his mother was at 26 weeks gestation.

“In my 20th week of pregnancy,” his mother Janae recalled, “an ultrasound revealed that my baby would be born with severe developmental disabilities. The doctor’s prognosis was bleak.”

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Their Voice: Understanding early intervention programs in Utah Valley


Brenda Winegar and Karen Hahne probably didn’t set out to change the world, but in 1983, they did just that. Each a mother of a young child with a developmental disability, they were looking for resources that would help them create an environment to help their children be successful.

What resulted was far beyond what either expected — the creation of “Kids on the Move Early Intervention.”

Winegar recalled, “It was about potential, determination, experience and the willpower to build something that seemed impossible. It was also about heavenly help when we became discouraged.”

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