Saturday, July 13, 2013

Early Intervention: A Parent's Perspective

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As I walked along the streets of my sleepy little town, I noticed the flower buds on trees getting ready to burst, and birds in a hurry to make their nests.  I pushed my daughter’s carriage and thought, what a glorious day.  Then I thought about parents who find it hard to appreciate the start of spring because they are distracted by an aching feeling in their gut. No matter how much they try to put it out of their minds, they cannot. 

That aching feeling in my own gut began the day I brought my daughter to a Mommy and Me class and realized she was not communicating the way the other children were.  As a first time parent, I seemed to worry about everything concerning my daughter, however, this time the worry became more intense and consuming.  When our children are not developing the way they should be, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions which we sometimes are hesitant to ask and seek answers to.  As both a parent and a counselor, I want to take this opportunity to reach out to parents and say to you, we are in this together.

Taking care of you

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When seeking early intervention for a disability, the focus tends to be on the child, as you now work closely with professionals providing your child’s services. However, it is important to remember to take care of your emotional well-being so you can be the best you can be for your child.  That could mean keeping healthy by exercising, eating right, and discussing your feelings with a trusted individual. Even a brisk walk can clear your head and keep you focused on providing support for your child. For some parents who are just learning their child has a disability, it is the first time they must deal with deep levels of stress and despair. It’s important to seek professional help if you’re feeling unable to cope with these new feelings.   

Get educated on how you can help your child

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Your county’s early intervention program should be giving you much of the skills and resources needed to help your child when services are over for the day. For example, when my daughter was diagnosed with a speech delay, her speech therapist gave me tips on how to encourage communication both inside and outside the home.  As parents, we don’t realize many of the things we have been doing with our children don’t necessarily work when they have a specific delay.  If you are the primary parent who goes to the child’s meetings and attends the therapeutic sessions, then you will also be responsible for sharing ideas that can help your child with other family members and friends.   The old African proverb, “It takes a whole village to raise a child” truly takes on a whole new meaning when your extended family and friends support your child with a delay.  Sometimes Grandma and Grandpa could be very helpful in facilitating at-home therapy when utilizing the strategies and resources you provide them.   

Refuse to let your child be a “number”


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Unfortunately, many counties are experiencing large amounts of referrals to early intervention.  This could mean the special education coordinator who is assigned to your child’s case could be overworked and overwhelmed.  As a result, the special education coordinator may not be able to get to know your child as well as he or she should.  This could be a problem when your child is up for an evaluation to determine eligibility for continuation of services.  If the special education coordinator must solely use test scores rather than a comprehensive knowledge of your child to determine eligibility, your child may prematurely be  released from early intervention services.   Although it is difficult to get around testing numbers in regard to determining eligibility, your child’s special education coordinator should take the time to get to know the “whole” child.  I found it helpful to call the special education coordinator periodically to check in and help her understand my concerns, as well as update her on my daughter’s progress.  This way, when it came time for the meetings, she was very acquainted with my daughter’s case. 


Understanding early intervention is a process
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Sometimes it is frustrating to sit back and watch your child make little, or sometimes no progress for a period of time in the early intervention program.  I often wish my daughter would wake up and suddenly burst into sentences.  However, my daughter’s speech therapist reminds me that a child with a speech delay usually makes slow but significant strides.  This is the case for many delays, which can sometimes last a lifetime. Your patience will be tested.  You should accept that small changes could be the only thing that your child is able to handle right now.  Big changes will come in time.  Contact the early intervention program to find out if a parent support group is offered.  My county’s early intervention program matches up parents whose children have the same delays. Often these support groups will meet on a weekly basis and are a great way to help you feel like you are not alone on this journey.  Sharing similar experiences in support groups is an important step towards acceptance and healing for both you and your child. 


This week, my daughter was re-evaluated in order to determine if her services will continue past her third birthday. The evaluator shared news that made me feel hopeful and relieved.  He explained my daughter’s delay was simply that, a delay.  This means once she is communicating on an age-appropriate level, she will not have any long term learning difficulties which would affect her in school.  I smiled, but in the very next moment I thought of the parents who would be told their child’s disability would last a lifetime. 

Somehow I know they will find strength in a place they never knew existed for the sake of that child. 



 By: Donna

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

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