Being able to recognize that someone needs help is something that takes a lot of vulnerability, compassion, and understanding. Whether you’re looking at mental health therapy for yourself or developmental therapy for your children, the pressure is on, and it is an overwhelming feeling to make sure you’re seeking the appropriate help. Although my kids have not needed mental health therapy, they have all benefited from early intervention therapies.
I think, as parents, we often think we have done something wrong when our kids need additional help with walking, talking, fine motor skills, or a trusted professional to talk big feelings with. We think we have failed our children, and others will judge us for providing those therapies for our children because we “did something wrong” in raising them. As a teacher, I have felt this struggle. I understand milestones, and I am providing my kids with many educational opportunities to learn as much as they can at a young age.
Yet, all three of my kids have had therapy.
Telling friends and family that my last child qualified for speech therapy and is on the watch list for physical therapy crushed my heart. But after getting over the initial blow of it, I realized that I was being a great parent and providing my children with every avenue they need to be set up for success in school and life. I have been to parties and gatherings where I can see other children struggling with speech at a later age and wondering about their frustration level when communicating with others. I wonder if it is going to affect their confidence or social skills. What would have happened if their parents just got them a little extra help to boost those skills? I am not parent-shaming at all, but just telling you that it is OK to recognize your child needs outside help in their development.
Many kids who go through a type of developmental therapy often get that extra push and are removed from services fairly quickly. My oldest son was in First Steps for speech therapy at 18 months, and he only stayed in the program for six months due to the amount of hard work put in by him, the speech therapist, and what my husband and I implemented based on the therapist’s recommendations. Because of his early intervention, he could be pushed onto the next milestone, and his communication began to excel above expectations. Now, a healthy first grader with a high vocabulary and exceptional math skills, you would have never guessed he needed early intervention years ago.
My second child was hitting all his milestones appropriately until about six months after turning three. I noticed some eating patterns that concerned me and reached out to a speech therapist friend. Now that he was out of the age range for first steps (0-3), I didn’t know where to go to get him evaluated for some feeding-type concerns. Although he didn’t get the early intervention services for this, he had private feeding therapy, we still nipped the concern in the bud at an early age, and now we have an adventurous eater a year later!
And my last child turned one in the winter and just wasn’t being as vocal as I would have liked at that age. I waited a few months to see if a few words would start coming out, and they didn’t. I filled out the online First Steps referral form, and then my child’s doctor reached out to discuss the referral further. She agreed, and a team of therapists evaluated him. He qualified for speech therapy, and I can tell you that I have already seen a huge growth in his few short sessions. It is like having a teammate in this task of getting my child to produce more words, giving me feedback and guidance. I am left with things to try at home throughout the week when she isn’t there, and I see the results because of it.
As a primary teacher, I often am surprised when parents disclose that their child had early intervention for speech/language, motor skills, or physical limitations. Although there are exceptions, I often cannot tell which students received services at an early age.
I’m here to tell you that early intervention, like First Steps, is there for a reason. Use the resource that has many insurance benefits, and many families do not have to pay for this service at all. Bonus: They come to your house or child’s daycare. Take the step to make sure your child can get caught up on the skills he/she may be lacking at an early age. The sooner they can be given extra tools in their toolboxes for their delay, the sooner they will be able to overcome that challenging area and move on to the next greatest milestone.
Feeling Like Taking the Next Steps? Here are some suggestions on what to do next:
- Take a look at the milestones from the CDC’s Developmental Milestone page and read through what your child should be doing at that age. Make notes on your concerns.
- If you’re unsure about where your child should be developmentally, call your pediatrician and express your concerns.
- If you’re feeling confident that your child is behind in some areas, after doing your own research, make a referral to First Steps or search for your state’s early intervention services.
Getting your child the extra help doesn’t make you a “bad parent”; it makes you an educated and caring parent for making sure your child is getting a great foundation for many, many years of learning to come.