Early Intervention (E.I.) is AMAZING (in theory—admittedly, sometimes not in execution). As you probably know, it is a system (authorized in every state in the U.S.) set up to give those babies and toddlers born with special needs/developmental delays, access to a myriad of supports (therapy, medical access, family counseling) between the ages of birth to three years. Here is a great resource that details the specifics in a well-organized way: http://www.parentcenterhub.org/ei-overview/
Typically, children born with genetic anomalies or serious complications at birth, will begin receiving services immediately. These parents understand how critical therapy is to their child’s overall health and functioning that they do not think twice about signing up for the services they need. Another population that benefits from E.I. are the children who are born without complication, but do not reach their developmental milestones within the expected age ranges (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html). With just about 20 years logged under my belt in the field of pediatric speech pathology, what I have seen is that the first group of children enroll in E.I., receive services, and achieve amazing results. Yet, with the second group of children, it is not as straight forward.
Spotting a delay can be tricky. Getting E.I. can also be tricky. But I am not writing this to address those points. Rather, this is directed at the parents that are “on the fence” about pursuing E.I.—because they are not sure or they feel it is best to take a “wait and see” stance. If you fall into this category or have a family member or client that falls into this category—I would encourage you to consider the following:
- If a child gets E.I. services, it does not “follow” them and they are not “forever marked”.The E.I. program is set up with the idea that the children who receive the services will enter school, at or about age 5, “all caught up”.
- If you are having a “feeling” something may be “up”—start the E.I. process—because the evaluations and paperwork take time, and if you wait—this could be life changing therapeutic time lost.
- You know your child will catch up on his own. And he may—but many times a child can appear to “be fine” on the surface…and when you dig deeper…there are holes in his learning foundation—and these holes can wreak havoc.
- You do not want people to think you are that “crazy” parent. Well—to this I say, get over it. You are eating, breathing and living YOUR child and you KNOW what your child needs. Friends, family, strangers on the street will always have an opinion—but you have to do what is best for YOUR child.
- I have never met a parent that regretted getting Early Intervention services; but I have met MANY parents who have regretted not getting the evaluative process (and subsequently, therapeutic process) started earlier because their child’s needs became increasingly evident with time.
- You can always go through the process and reject the therapy (parents typically report that they appreciated the insights garnered about their child’s overall learning style/developmental strengths & weaknesses from these evaluations.) However, I would not suggest this because reinstating these services after you have dropped them becomes a challenge—and that is when you will need them the most.
- Lastly—it is FREE!
Time and tested research has shown that the brain is most plastic before 3 years of age. This is when children learn and explore their world and make neuronal connections that will benefit them for their lifetime. The premise behind Early Intervention is to capitalize on this precious time frame, when children feel most comfortable (on their own turf) to facilitate and expedite learning across all domains. Some children just need extra help or a “boost” during this time period in their development and will graduate E.I. and never look back. While other children will go on to require some type of therapeutic intervention into early adulthood (and beyond). If you have any hesitation whatsoever about how your child is progressing (remember: YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD BEST), I urge you to start the evaluation process for Early Intervention—this could really make a difference in not only your child’s educational trajectory but also with her social/emotional well-being as well.