As has been alluded to in past posts, our son, “Peanut”, has a few issues that require special attention. He is not alone in this: his sister, “Bean”, also needed a little extra help catching up with her peers. And, if statistics are anywhere near correct, one in six kids have at least one developmental disability.
Although Bean is now progressing at an above-average rate (early interventions really do work!), Peanut has a little bit of a longer road ahead. Fortunately, we have a small army of helpers behind us.
Enter early childhood interventions.
I don’t think nearly enough people are aware of the incredible amount of resources that are available to anyone who needs or wants them. In true Amanda-list fashion, I wanted to highlight some of the programs we have encountered in our brief parenting journey thus far. More than that, I also wanted to call attention to the fact that there is an abundance of programs out there for families with young children, regardless of your child’s ability–you just have to know where to look.
The first place I recommend going to is your local school district. In our particular district, and in many others across the country, the early childhood program in place is known as Parents as Teachers. With this program, a “Parent Educator” comes into your home each month, and helps explain your child’s development, provides screenings (like free hearing tests), and offers resources, among other things.
I have enjoyed the fun, developmentally-appropriate activities they discuss at each visit, and it was through PAT that I learned about the next key resource listed here. Many PAT affiliates also have playgroups or play centers, which allow you to hang out with other parents of young kids–a real boon to a stay-at-home parent!
It does not matter what ability your child may or may not have, or even if you do not intend to send your child to school in that district, when the time comes. It is just a great program that helps to inform parents and families of the amazing things your child is doing!
Through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the state of Kansas provides a federally mandated program that gives early intervention to babies and toddlers who are showing signs of developmental delays or physical disabilities. In our area, a specific organization has qualified therapists that work with children who need a little extra help in certain areas.
What this looks like for us is an occupational therapist and physical therapist come to our home each week to work with Peanut; specialists would come and work with Bean when she was younger, too. While they do bill your insurance if they are able, no one is ever turned away because of an inability to pay. Because I know there are some readers in Ronnica’s new home state of Colorado, a good place to start is here. Kansas readers can start here. Other states can do a simple search engine check by typing in your state and “early intervention.”
Don’t discount the abundance of national programs at your disposal, either. Such programs as the InfantSEE program involves a network of optometrists nationwide that provide free vision screenings for infants age 6 to 12 months. Although not common, vision problems need to be addressed at an early age to prevent more complicated issues down the line.
If all else fails, head to your child’s pediatrician. They will typically know of resources that may not be openly publicized in your community, and have the medical expertise needed to point you in the right direction.
Children are a gift, and one that requires care and cultivation just as any other gift does. There are tools out there that help make the job of parenting a little easier, because, really, we could all use a little help!