Look at a group of toddlers, all the same age, and the first thing you’ll notice — aside from how incredibly cute toddlers are — is that they’re probably all showing slightly different levels of ability. One might have a rich vocabulary but still be scooting across the floor on his hands and knees; another might be running across the room but only have a few words; one child might still need to be fed by his caregiver while his playmate happily spoons applesauce into his own mouth. Kids develop at different rates, but there are certain developmental milestones that fall within a range of typical development. When a child under three doesn’t hit important milestones on time, it often means the little one will continue to experience delays in learning or development, and that can affect his education, social development, and overall quality of life. That’s where early intervention can help.
What is Early Intervention?
Early intervention is just what it sounds like: catching developmental delays early, so that they can be addressed during those important toddler years. When we begin to address developmental delays before age three, through early intervention, it gives your child a head start on “catching up” before his life becomes busy with school, play dates, and all the other important business of childhood.
If All Kids are Different, Why Do Milestones Matter?
Early intervention isn’t about comparing kids, or wanting them to conform. When your child is developing skills, it works kind of like a ladder. He has to develop certain early skills before he can move on to the next. It might not seem like a big deal if your toddler can’t hold a chubby crayon and scribble on a piece of paper, but if that skill doesn’t properly develop, it will impair his ability to write once he enters school.
How Does Early Intervention Help?
An early interventionist will look at how your child plays and interacts with the world. Depending on his age, the interventionist might pay close attention to how he speaks, holds a crayon, or plays with his peers. She will help your family figure out which therapy services might be appropriate to help your child build his skills, and work with you to find ways that you can help your child’s overall development thrive at home. Early intervention is about finding out who your child is, how he likes to learn, and how we can help him meet his milestones and succeed beyond the infant and toddler years and into adulthood.
How Do I Know If My Child Needs Early Intervention?
Some families know from the time their child is born that early intervention will be necessary. If a child is very premature, for example, or has a congenital problem that might cause delays, you might be referred to early intervention services right away. If an infant has surgery or is seriously ill, early intervention might be recommended. This doesn’t mean that your child will have delays, but the early interventionist will track your child’s progress so that any delays can be caught and address quickly. Sometimes it becomes apparent later that a child needs early intervention. At her well-child visits, your doctor will ask about and observe whether your child has met certain milestones. If not, he may refer you to early intervention. There are things you can look for at home as well. Click here for a list of developmental milestones in infants and toddlers.
You are the most important advocate your child has. Be sure your child gets his or her early screenings. You could make a huge difference, not only in their first years, but in all the ones to follow! If you have questions or concerns, contact our team at Carolina Pediatric Therapy, we’re here to help and make sure your little one reaches their full potential! Schedule a screening today, call us at 828-670-8056.
Early Intervention: Paving the Way to a Successful Future
-April Fox, Staff Writer
Carolina Pediatric Therapy © March 2014
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