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Thursday, November 27, 2014
Putting Kids First
Local agency goes extra mile for the holidays
Susan Grieco/Herald
Kids First staff members, from left, Kim Hunt, Lauren Chopyk, Ina Belferber, Grace Winkler and Anita Friedman, and bottom row, left to right, Tara Miguel, Angela Russo and Dawn Plumitallo smiled for their own holiday photo.

Posing for holiday photographs can be a stressful experience for a family with small children. And capturing the perfect shot is even more of a challenge for those who have children with special needs. In an effort to help those families this holiday season, Kids First, an agency that provides early-intervention and preschool special education services, offered to take children’s holiday photos — free of charge.

On a recent Wednesday, working in the Leon J. Campo Salisbury Administrative Center in Westbury — which serves as the administrative center for the East Meadow School District — Kids First welcomed families throughout the day. With the help of volunteers, photographer Rich Matarazzo snapped festive holiday shots for parents to send to their families and friends or to keep for their own collections.

“The holiday photo thing is an incredibly stressful event for typically developing kids,” said Dawn Plumitallo, who founded Kids First in 1997, “and even more stressful for a lot of children with special needs.”

Kids First, which has been based in the Campo Salisbury Center since 2002, provides services to children up to age 5 as well as some older children with specific needs. Parents who are concerned about their child’s development can come to Kids First for a free evaluation. If they qualify for therapy, the services are also free.

The approximately 80-member staff of Kids First comprises master’s-level professionals ranging from special education teachers to speech pathologists to occupational and physical therapists to psychologists to social workers. “The purpose of this program is to make sure that, come kindergarten, as many of our children as possible are ready for typically developing kindergarten experiences,” said Plumitallo, who lives in Huntington.

The agency works with children with a wide array of physical and behavioral challenges, including speech and language, cognitive skills, fine motor skills and social-emotional behavior. Though many patients are from East Meadow, Levittown and other areas of central Nassau County, the agency services children from across the county.

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