I have blogged about my experience with my twin daughters’ developmental delays (in two areas – walking being the main reason they were tested). They qualified for Early Intervention without question. At the time, I was feeling a ton of anxiety and guilt about the situation. I blamed myself and worried about when they will hit their milestones. (Answer: 5 months with consistent practice and regular visits from the physical therapist.) And did I cause this somehow? (Answer: Nope, it’s just one of those things.)
Someone recently said something to the effect of, “But don’t all kids catch up eventually?” and my mama gut said, “Uhhh, no they don’t.”
The earlier you catch something, the better for your kid in the long run. This has been studied, researched and published on for decades. It’s incredibly effective and valuable, so much so the folks in Washington, DC have provided this service to every single child in the country for more than 30 years.
Since 1986, the Federal Government has been paying for Early Intervention services under The Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities Program (Part C) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This offers Early Intervention services to infants and toddlers from birth to three with the short term goal to enhance the development of infants and toddlers and minimize developmental delay. The long-term goal was to reduce educational costs down the road (like special education services for kids with disabilities/delays). The point is to catch delays early before kids start school and the delay may become more permanent.
As it turns out, I am turning myself into a poster child for Early Intervention because it was an amazing experience and incredibly valuable (at no financial cost to me)!
My mama gut has always told me early identification of developmental delay and acquiring Early Intervention services are crucial to lifelong growth and development. Here are the facts why (from Harvard):
Neural circuits in the brain, which create the foundation for learning, behavior and health, are most flexible or “plastic” during the first three years of life. Over time, they become increasingly difficult to change.
High quality Early Intervention services can change a child’s developmental trajectory and improve outcomes for the rest of their life.
Intervention is likely to be more effective and less costly when it is provided earlier in life rather than later.
I have personally benefited from Part C with my twins. So why am I talking about it again?
Because I had one of my daughters RESTESTED (you know, just for the fun of it – NOT).
We were originally evaluated by Help Me Grow when the twins were 13 months old. They are now nearly three years old and it sounds like one of my twins has a slight speech impediment (trouble saying S-words, like Daffy Duck). When I was in grade school I remember kids getting pulled out of class for speech therapy, so I know help would come, but I didn’t want to wait for her to miss out on regular class for something we can work on right away (I am a very proactive mama, it’s one of my most important personal values). So I emailed my amazing Help Me Grow Social Worker and asked to be retested.
What happened next, after I made the call to get an evaluation
A new team of early childhood developmental specialists came to the house (this time a speech therapist instead of physical therapist) and “played games” with my girls. They are so wonderful in including all three of my nuggets because they all wanted to play with new block toys, follow fun instructions to act like a bunny or look at the pictures and describe what they see. The evaluators did an awesome job of making my big kid (five years old) feel special too. And I was impressed to hear her respond to questions I didn’t know she could answer!
As it was during our first evaluation, they score everything right then and there and tell you the results immediately. Originally, hearing the news both of my twins were delayed in two different areas was like getting slapped in the face and punched in the stomach simultaneously. This time around, I knew what to expect if her test said she needed services.
If she needed services, I knew it would be a great experience and I didn’t have to fear the unknown and question myself as a mother. It was going to be totally fine.
I braced myself for the news…
…what a different outcome! My little one is within range for everything and she’s actually advanced in a few areas. Moreover, the ‘S’ sounds I’m looking for her to say don’t truly develop until she is 7 or 8 years old. OK, we’re good!
I technically could have still requested services because once you qualify at any point between the ages of 0-3 years; you are always entitled to the free services. I guess we could have gotten a leg-up on some stuff with the visits from child development experts, but I did not want to take services away from a family who currently has developmental delays.
Another close friend has experienced Early Intervention for her daughter’s hearing loss
When talking to some friends about the retest experience, one of my best friends said she recently had an experience with Early Intervention after learning her two-year old daughter has hearing loss in one ear. The pediatric audiologist diagnosed her daughter with a hearing loss and referred her to Early Intervention to confirm there were no other issues with speech, developmental delays, or behavior.
Her two year old is getting fitted for a hearing aid now and during this process her Early Intervention team has offered to come to her daughter’s audiology appointments and help train her teachers about hearing loss. After she gets her hearing aids put in, they will do further training with her teachers. I don’t know how much more full-circle and holistic you can get.
Early Intervention teams really think of each child’s unique situation and needs, and tailor services specifically to them. It’s beyond 5-star service. They would get ten Michelin stars from me (and the max is three)!
Without her Early Intervention evaluation, her speech could have been affected, and she would have started school at a great disadvantage, not being able to hear the teacher. If things progressed without the Early Intervention evaluation, her daughter would most likely have been considered a challenging student and tested/diagnosed with a learning disability or behavior issues in the school system. Her teachers/parents wouldn’t be trained on how to work with a student who has hearing loss and a hearing aid. Her daughter would have most likely become bored and struggled in school. In this situation, would anyone think to explore hearing issues before creating an IEP or prescribing unnecessary medication?
Some parents may be reticent in getting their child evaluated thinking, “It’s fine. They’ll catch up eventually.”
I encourage this parent to change their mindset to “What’s the harm?”
There’s no downside to identifying an issue early on or just confirming everything is OK (like I just did). What’s the harm in addressing something before it becomes a life changing issue?
Kids may never catch up if there are preexisting conditions (like hearing loss) which could have been address and remedied, but wasn’t and now becomes a real lifelong problem.
Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2008). InBrief: The science of early childhood development.
Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2010). The foundations of lifelong health are built in early childhood.
Having Early Intervention available in every state is an incredibly safety net for child development. I have experienced it twice now and I cannot say enough good things about it!
Research articles informing this post:
Richard C. Adams, Carl Tapia. Early Intervention, IDEA Part C Services, and the Medical Home: Collaboration for Best Practice and Best Outcomes. THE COUNCIL ON CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES. Pediatrics, Oct. 2013, 132 (4)
Ramey CT, Ramey SL. Early Intervention and early experience. Am Psychol. 1998; 53(2):109–120