If you’ve ever wondered if your baby should be crawling by now or if your two-year-old should say more words, then this post is for you. Early Intervention is a program for infants and toddlers under the age of three. It is available in every state and territory, and it’s funded by a federal grant. This program is designed to give services to children that qualify based on developmental delays and disabilities. Some of the services available include; speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, behavior therapy, and many others that can benefit the child and family. These services are all provided at little or no cost to qualifying families.
Where Do I Start?
The first thing to do is to find out what Regional Center serves your county and give them a call. Yes, it’s really that simple. No, you DO NOT NEED A REFERRAL. This is one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to early intervention services. You don’t need to get a referral from your pediatrician or anyone else. All you need to do is call, and they will walk you through the process.
What’s the Early Intervention Process?
That initial phone call takes a bit of time. They ask lots of questions to get a history and understand the concerns you have. Keep yourself organized and always make copies, since there’s a lot of paperwork involved.
The next step will be an evaluation of your little one in your home. Most services take place in your home or in the therapist’s office because there usually isn’t a “center” to go to. An Early Intervention Specialist will make an appointment to come to your home and complete a full evaluation of your child’s development. This can be a little scary and overwhelming, but remember it’s okay to ask questions. And you need to ask lots of questions. The more you know and understand about the process, the less intimidated you’ll be while you’re in the thick of it.
The evaluation uses a scoring system to determine if your child qualifies for services. If your child qualifies, then your family is assigned a Services Coordinator. This person will work with you to set goals and match the right services to meet those goals by creating an Individual Family Services Plan (IFSP). Every six months, you’ll meet with your coordinator to review and amend your IFSP as needed. As your child approaches the age of three, you’ll work with your coordinator to transfer services to the school district or your child will “graduate” from services. Because every child is different, the length of time that services are needed varies.
Have I Failed?
Believe it or not, someone just recently asked me if I felt that I was a failure as a mother because I needed so much help with my son. Once the initial shock of that question wore off, I was able to answer and educate while doing so. I haven’t for one second felt like I was failing, because I know that I’m doing everything I possibly can. In fact, I know I am succeeding as a mother because I have advocated so fiercely for my son. I have ensured that he has access to services that will improve his quality of life. We have assembled an amazing team of therapists that come in and out of our home six days a week and have become part of our family. Worrying about your child is so stressful, and it can become debilitating. But you don’t have to suffer alone; there is help.
Don’t be afraid to utilize these resources based on the opinions of others or based on an unrealistic image you have of yourself. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather it’s a sign of strength. And you never know how strong you truly are until you have to be.