Early Childhood Intervention: When is it Needed?

Early childhood intervention is a term that many of you may have heard, but may not necessarily know what it is. If you’re a parent of a child who deals with an autism spectrum disorder or other behavioral health issues; then it’s a term you are probably well versed in. But what exactly is early childhood intervention and why and when is it needed? Lets explore that together in this article.

Early Childhood Intervention Defined

The definition of early childhood intervention is pretty simple. The CDC website outlines it perfectly.

Is the term used to describe the services and supports that are available to babies and young children with developmental delays and disabilities and their families.

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/parents/states.html

The type of early childhood intervention your child needs can vary. It could be physical, speech or behavioral therapy. Physical therapy could be needed as well. It really depends on whether the needs of the child are physical or cognitive developmental delays or something totally different. So how do you know if your child needs early intervention?

Signs Your Child May Need Early Childhood Intervention

Most of us as parents spend quite a bit of time enjoying watching our babies grow from helpless little humans to noise making, crawling, active little humans with a tenacity for exploration. During pregnancy, typically your doctor or family pediatrician will give you handouts of information outlining all the developmental milestones your child should be reaching. These guidelines are based on averages so most of us aren’t freaking out if our little one isn’t necessarily crawling exactly at the 6-8 month mark.

However, if you notice other developmental delays or differences such as apathy towards picking up toys, answering to their names, indifference to a parent’s facial expressions, or the loss of their words; these may be red flags that need to be addressed.

But what about when the signs are more subtle or don’t show up until your child is pre-school or school age? How do you know if you’re just being an over concerned parent or if something is truly deserving of your extra attention?

My Personal Experience

On my journey with my children, things weren’t as blatantly obvious as some of the symptoms listed above. With my oldest son, around the time he was 4 or 5, I KNEW he had way more energy than just “kids being kids”. However, we waited to see what would happen, and that waiting period was kind of tough. We didn’t know what it was going to mean for him going into school etc. We didn’t get a formal diagnosis until he was about 8 or 9, and that was honestly because we began to notice other aspects of his behaviors changing. When he was diagnosed, it was considered a comorbidity of the more obvious behaviors of his Tourette’s Syndrome.

These diagnoses coupled with more subtle signs my son displayed like OCD, apprehension to physical touch and affection were some of the reasons he was considered to be on the spectrum. My husband and I didn’t notice right away that he had “differences”. It was a combination of things over a period of time before we decided to pursue any interventions. Do I wish I had paid more attention a little earlier? Absolutely. Do I think it would have made much of a difference? Not really.

The Lessons We Learned Were Priceless

The experience gave us the knowledge we needed to act a bit quicker with my youngest son. He recently turned 5 but about a year ago we started to notice certain behaviors of his that had us concerned. They were REALLY subtle and if it hadn’t been for what we learned with our older son, we may not have acted as quickly. Some of the things we noticed were the hyperactivity, disinterest in maintaining eye contact for long, an unusual habit of chewing which we came to learn is considered “stimming”. We also noticed he had odd sleep patterns, emotional outbursts, signs of anxiety but above all else? His above average intelligence much like his older brother.

After careful consideration and conversation with my husband, we decided to pursue early intervention. He’s had his preliminary assessment and is now scheduled with the Georgia Autism Center. We don’t know where the next step is going to take us, but I’m definitely glad we’re doing this as he prepares to enter kindergarten. Advocating for our children is SUPER important especially within a school system that is more likely to label my black sons as “problematic”. Having a diagnosis allows us to legally obtain a 504 Plan or IEP (if necessary) to ensure their rights are being respected in school.

The Stigma Scares Parents Away

A lot of conversation I’ve had with parents, particularly those in the African American community has been centered around the stigma of “special needs”. Many parents feel like doctors over diagnose our children which leads to unfair labeling in their educational careers. And honestly, they’d be right to a degree. According to studies black children are more likely to be diagnosed and labeled negatively than their non-black counterparts. However, what your child gets access to is going to be your responsibility. Do not depend on the school system to care for or advocate for your child. This is our job. And despite how hard it is, if you care enough you will do it. There are an abundant of resources, but they may not necessarily be handed to you. Research is key and a willingness to learn will do wonders for you. Join online support groups to learn more and receive the emotional support you may need to fight your fight.

The Wrap Up

Parenthood can be full of ups and downs. There will be moments that make you angry, make you cry and question your sanity as much as there will be joy, happiness and rewarding moments. The most important thing is that we give our children a fair chance at life. It does your child a huge disservice (as well as you) if you turn a blind eye to things they may honestly need help with. Put your child above your ego and love them in spite of what may or may not be wrong.

Until next time,