Early intervention … what is it and why is it important?! Early intervention is support and services for babies and young children who have a developmental delay or impairment. Eligibility is defined by assessing the person (with parents’ permission) to identify if that little one does, as a matter of fact, have a delay in development or disability. Eligible children will have access to treatment services from birth through their 3rd birthday (and sometimes beyond).
“If it’s autism, waiting for a child to ‘catch up on his own’ just won’t work. Acting early can help a child communicate, play, and learn from the world now and for the future. It can also prevent frustration — so common in children with communication difficulties — from turning into more difficult behaviors.” Pennsylvania clinical psychologist
I had a set of boy/girl twins born at 29 weeks and 1 day. My daughter weighed in at 3lbs and 4.2oz and 16 1/4 inches long with my son being 2lbs 6.1oz and 13 1/2 inches long. I knew of early intervention before having them due to my educational background of being a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. However, I had not used therapies as intense until my twins were born. (I do have two older girls, if some wonder, besides the point!) Kacie (girl) was discharged from the hospital at 34 weeks gestation! Pretty incredible what our medical technologies are capable of. Karson (boy) was discharged from the hospital at 37 weeks and 2 days gestation. **gestation meaning the time between conception and birth, how they measure in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)** Karson started having physical therapy in the hospital since he was admitted for just shy of 2 months. Today many would be unable to know that he was born at 29 weeks since we have been such advocates for occupational, physical and speech therapies.
“Acting early gives your child a chance to receive the appropriate therapy, giving him or her the best chance for a good outcome in the future. I believe that early intervention is the reason my high-functioning son is now able to blend in with his peers and attend kindergarten in a regular classroom with no supports.” Kansas mom
Decades of rigorous research show that children’s earliest experiences play a critical role in brain development. Neural circuits, which create the foundation for learning, behavior and health, are most flexible or “plastic” during the first three years of life. Over time, they become increasingly difficult to change. While some parents may feel embarrassed about their child or notice they have a language barrier, families and practitioners should have an open dialogue during each well-visit including assessing their patients development.
“Action replaced fear and empowered me with the knowledge to help my son. He has overcome most of his symptoms and is headed to college next year.” Florida mom
Persistent “toxic” stress, such as extreme poverty, abuse and neglect, or severe maternal depression can damage the developing brain, leading to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health. Early intervention services can change a child’s developmental delay and improve outcomes for children, families, and communities. These services have been shown to positively impact outcomes across developmental domains, including health, language/communication, cognitive development and social/emotional development.
I enjoy staying in constant contact with individuals each year that experience the (NICU) and often get asked about early intervention and support that is available for individuals that are in a hard situation. I have no hesitation to talk about my experience and how to find services and support for others. By reading this, I hope you remember that you are doing the best you can by putting your child in services at an early age and to NEVER feel embarrassed. We are all in this together is my motto! Today my twins will be 3 at the end of May and Karson will be transitioning into an individualized family service plan (IFSP). He will be receiving speech and occupational therapy in a preschool setting for language development and sensory integration. Kacie has been developing at a more normal rate, only piggy backing off Karson for a few bonus speech sessions! It really is impressive to see where they started shy of 3 years ago and where we are now, all thanks to early intervention!
High-quality early interventions are designed to combat the factors that threaten child development. If learning begets learning, then interventions at younger ages have great potential to generate cumulative benefits by altering a child’s future developmental trajectory.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 12). Concerned About Your Child’s Development? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/concerned.html.
The National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center. (2011, July). The Importance of Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities and their Families. Chapel Hill, NC. https://ectacenter.org/~pdfs/pubs/importanceofearlyintervention.pdf.
RAND Labor and Population. (2005). Children at Risk. Santa Monica, CA; RAND Corporation. https://www.tclny.org/content/Policies/RAND_RB9144.pdf.