How Early Intervention Helps Children Succeed

 

child and therapist building blocks
Image via Augie Schwer

Is your baby having a hard time learning how to sit up? Does your toddler still have a hard time feeding himself? Does your 2-year-old mainly use gestures to communicate instead of using words?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child may be falling behind on his or her development.  The good news is that your state's Early Intervention program can help your child succeed.  

Early Intervention (EI) is a federally funded program that provides assessment and intervention for children from birth to three years (some states up to age five). The programs provide a wide range of services to children and their families. These services are provided for free or at a low cost, depending on the state. Services provided may include speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy, vision therapy, educational services, deaf and hard of hearing services, and more. Early Intervention services are provided in a child's natural environment which is typically in the home.

Unlike traditional therapy services, Early Intervention services focus on supporting the child by teaching the family how to use therapeutic strategies during everyday activities.

Several research studies have shown that the Early Intervention program has a huge impact on a child's development in all areas of development. Additionally, research has shown that the program positively helps families better meet their child's needs at a young age and throughout their life. Today we're sharing the personal accounts of several families in the Early Intervention program.  

Story 1 Abby
Image via Life as a Leach

Julie is a mom of two children. Her youngest daughter, Abby (age 3), was 3 months old when she first received services from the Early Intervention program. Abby was evaluated very soon after being discharged from the hospital and she has received speech and physical therapies in the hospital since she was 3 weeks old. Given Abby’s diagnosis of Cerebrocostomandibular Syndrome, her overall prognosis was pretty bleak. Her family was told that she would be unable to walk, talk, see, or hear, but that therapists would help them to make their lives easier. The geneticist told Abby's family she would be “little more than a vegetable.” Julie's biggest fear was that all of the predictions would be true … or worse, that she would lose her baby girl.  (For the record, her girl not only walks, talks, sees, and hears, but she also runs, jumps, screams, and sings!)

Julie loves all of Abby's Early Intervention therapists. They quickly became some of Abby’s biggest cheerleaders, and Julie can now call them true friends.  

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When asked to describe what she loves about the Early Intervention program, Julie stated, “I love how [the therapists]  make everything into a game for Abby so that she doesn’t even know that she is working! They are all wonderful about just following her lead and incorporating skill exercises into what Abby feels like playing that day. I think our physical therapist has even worked with Abby under the kitchen table a few times! They really are very creative and excellent at what they do.”

EI is a parent-training model and depends upon family participation but Julie sometimes finds it challenging to fit in Abby's exercises into everyday life. At one time, Abby had fine motor, gross motor, speech, and assistive technology goals. Julie learned very quickly not to beat herself up about not doing everything every day. As long as they were doing something, Abby would make progress. Something that helped Abby's family tremendously was periodically asking each therapist to give them their top three picks for exercises to do each day. If nothing else got done, Julie would make sure she at least did those. 

Abby's family has also adopted a therapy lifestyle in their house. Instead of just making therapy exercises something to check off their daily list, they incorporate them into every day activities. When Julie changed Abby’s diaper, she would have Abby push her hips up in the air in a “bridge” to strengthen her core as she slid her pants on. Julie and Abby kick a ball around on the field while Abby's brother is at soccer practice. In the grocery store, they name foods — especially ones that end in the long /e/ sound, one that is so hard for Abby! Julie found that being intentional with Abby's playtime has really helped her to address all of Abby's therapy goals.

When asked what advice she has for a parent that is concerned about their child's development, Julie stated, “Early Intervention isn’t the terrifying thing that some parents make it out to be. Just because your child receives services as an infant or toddler doesn’t mean that he or she will have a ‘label' in school. If you are the slightest bit concerned that your child isn’t making milestones, ask for an evaluation. Your child may only need therapy for a short time to help him or her catch up, but that help could make a lifetime of difference! Abby is proof that EI works!”

 You can read more about Abby's journey and adventures at Life as a Leach.

 

Story 2 Eden
Image via Lissa's 3 Girls

Melissa is a stay-at-home mom of three girls. Her youngest daughter, Eden, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder three years agoEden had just turned 3 when her family started the Early Intervention evaluation process. At the time, Melissa's biggest fear was that she had waited too long to get services for her daughter. She was under the impression that development and language learning had a “magic time” that needed to be had before the age of 5. She later learned that this isn't true, because learning happens all the time no matter what your age.

{ MORE:  What is Autism?  }

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Melissa further notes that Early Intervention was the best thing to happen to Eden. She had EI services for developmental therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy from the age of 3 ½ until she transitioned to public school at the age of 5 ½ . Eden learned how to play, speak, make friends, and how to follow rules and directions. All of these things are things Melissa didn't or couldn't  know how to teach her. Melissa also benefited from the services through making connections with teachers and therapists who knew how to work with her child.

Transitioning from EI services to the public school was scary and stressful for Melissa. After being with the same school, teachers, routines, and therapists for almost three years, Eden transitioned from a school with 20 students to a school with 300+ students and different teachers each year. Melissa helped Eden with the huge transition by communicating with the transition team at her transition meeting. She felt that good communication with the Early Intervention staff made the transition much easier in the long run.

Melissa blogs about the ups and downs of motherhood at Lissa's Three Girls. You can also reach her by e-mail

If you'd like more information for your own family, please visit The National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Program to locate specific Early Intervention contact information by state.

MORE:  Wabi Sabi: The Way to a Simpler Life }

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What do you think?

How Early Intervention Helps Children Succeed

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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1 comment

  1. EbyMom says:

    Wow this blog would hv been posted a long time ago but it is good to note. Parents should never be afraid or ashamed to seek assistance for their children in any possible way that will help them in their development. There is nothing bad with the early intervention program. In fact it is a saving grace for some families that can’t afford such huge services for their children.very interesting blog. Thnx EDF

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