By: Heather Desmond O’Neill
“Dada. Dada. Dada. Dada.”
A year and a half ago, this was all my youngest son was saying, and I was pretty devastated. Just once I wanted to hear “Mama.” I’m sure you’re thinking, “careful what you wish for…” Now, I live with a real life Stewie.
At Jackson’s 15-month check up, my pediatrician told me she was concerned. She recommended that I get in touch with Early Intervention and have him evaluated. As a special educator, I knew that this would be a great resource for him, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to enter the world of evaluations and measuring his abilities. But we did, and I’m thankful every day.
Profound physical, intellectual, language, social, and emotional developments occur in the first 3 years of a child’s life. Early Intervention measures a child’s developmental progress and determines if that child needs specific services to meet age-appropriate goals. This family-centered approach has been instrumental in my son’s development and progress.
I know that some people view early intervention negatively, like there’s something “wrong” with a child who qualifies for services. Let me tell you, they have been a blessing. The only measurement I had for my second child was my first child. Although I didn’t want to compare the two, I knew that Jackson wasn’t meeting the milestones at the same age that Jameson had. I was apprehensive about the initial evaluation, but thankful for the answers it provided.
Once we started sessions it was clear that this was going to benefit the entire family. Our clinician, Jen, was reinforcing skills with Jameson, teaching them to Jackson and answering all of my questions in between. I find that I constantly question my parenting abilities and it was nice to bounce some ideas off of Jen and get some honest, open, and realistic feedback. She helped us work with one another as a family, and Jackson’s skills have improved greatly.
Jackson now sees a clinician and a speech therapist, and attends a community toddler group where he interacts with other kids between 18-36 months. He loves to go and I’m thrilled that he’s interacting with other kids his age. He says, “I’m going to Jen’s house to play with my friends.” I truly appreciate these services.
I was once concerned. I am now grateful. Jackson will now chat up anyone within earshot. His vocabulary has increased tremendously, but my favorite word of his will always be, “Mama.”
Early Intervention is not only for speech and motor coordination. They provide support groups for parents, families and siblings, parenting classes, infant and baby classes, home visits, transportation, and physical and occupational therapies. If you think your child could benefit from these services, talk to your pediatrician.