The ABCs of Early Intervention

By Taveesha Guyton, Social Worker

As a young child, I remember being dropped off at grandmother’s house and sitting and watching black and white movies of The Three Stooges on a floor model television in the living room. I remember watching the Price is Right and clapping my hands because I saw the audience do this on TV. Now we have IPADS which help children with eye- hand coordination, Leap Frog which helps children read and other assistive technology.

As a Social Worker, I am always concerned with the growth and development of my children. I often, compare my kids’ growth to the milestone chart given by the pediatrician to see if my client is developing according to the benchmarks. The questions are, what happens if children are below where they need to be and are there anything parents can do to help? What is Early Intervention? How does it help families? And what happens if a child has a diagnosis as being developmentally delayed at a young age?  

Early Intervention is an organization which helps children who may have developmental delays. Early Intervention helps infants and toddlers get intervention and services they need to learn within their first three years of life.  These skills include cognitive, physical, communication and self- help. They will tailor services to meet the child’s needs which might include the use of Assistive Technology, Medical Services, Nutrition Services and Occupational and Physical Therapy Services. Early Intervention also helps parents understand the needs of the child and offers support to help with this challenging concept.  

Early Intervention Services are generally at the request of a parent, and sometimes a referral is made by a Developmental Pediatrician. The assessment service is free of charge. The  Family Service Coordinator will explain the processes and ask the parent/ guardian for permission to assess the child. They know how to work with the kids, even very young ones, to discover if a child has a problem or is developing within normal ranges. Group members may evaluate your child together or individually. As part of the evaluation, the team will observe your child, ask your child to do things, talk to you and your child, and use other methods to gather information. These procedures will help the team find out how your child functions in the five areas of development. 

Raising a child with special needs is daunting. Between therapies, appointments which may include treatments, and follow- up appointments, parents work as full-time caregivers, usually put their needs and wants last. Putting others before oneself can cause resentment, stress and poor- health care. So is a parent to do? 

When the child has a diagnosis by the child’s pediatrician, or an infant and toddler developmental specialist, the parents should do their research about the child’s’ diagnosis. Getting as much information about the diagnosis which includes how this diagnosis will affect their child’s future and what other milestones they should be aware of for the child. 

Assistive Technology is helpful. There many Smartphone applications as well as any items on the IPAD application which help with the education of the child with delays. There is also adaptive equipment from many agencies which use assistive technology. (See Certified Autism Resources.) Technology has even come up with ways where a child can use eye gazing to answer the question a computer app has asked them. 

It is important for parents to know they are not alone. There are communities which help families understand the child’s diagnosis. There are support groups at local and community hospitals, as well as meet-up support groups for the parent of children with special needs.  It is also helpful for parents to know what is being discussed locally, statewide and nationally regarding their child’s diagnosis. National Associations such as Autism Speaks, National Society of Down Syndrome and many more have resources available on their websites which include information on what is happening on the local and national level.   

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