Our education writer writes, “As a teacher, and parent who has had her children evaluated, I know the gift that early intervention can be to a child.”
When my son was four, I had him evaluated for speech. He had a great vocabulary, but most people had a hard time understanding what he was saying. Then, when my daughter was five, I had her evaluated for occupational therapy. She had trouble holding a pencil and tying her shoes. One of my friends suggested that I might be a little evaluation happy and wondered why I wanted my children to receive services so badly.
It stems from being an elementary school teacher. Teaching fourth grade for seven years has made me realize the gift that early intervention can be. Unfortunately, many parents are still holding onto the stigma attached to special education from their own childhoods. But, long gone are the days when special ed consisted of eight kids in a secluded classroom at the end of the school, who emerged only for recess.
The truth is that a large percentage of children today will receive some form of special education services in their academic career. Special Education provides valuable supports and services including speech, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, counseling, resource room, integrated class setting (inclusion), and self-contained classes to name a few. Even classes for gifted students now fall under special education services.
Many of these services, when started early enough can produce great results. I call early intervention a gift because I have seen children make huge strides when the intervention was started early. In my opinion, the number one mistake parents make is waiting to have a child evaluated. Some parents want to wait to see if the child matures or will grow out of the delay. They are hesitant to have the child evaluated for fear that the child will be labeled. As a parent, I understand the feeling in the bottom of your stomach when you feel like something might be wrong, but if there is a delay, acting early is the best possible solution.
If you found a lump on your child’s body, would you wait to have it tested for fear that it might be cancer? Most of us would run to a doctor because we know that if it is caught early on, your child would have the best chance of surviving. Think of your child’s development in the same way. If there are any signs of delay, why not act immediately?
In today’s classroom, children do not view special education as we did when we were kids. Since so many children receive a service at some point in their lives, it is common for kids to see a classmate pulled out of class for help. Some of the most popular kids in my classes have been special education students.
The ideal experience for a child with special needs would be to have the most intensive services early on. This way the child can be in a more restrictive environment earlier, if needed, and then switch out as they grow older. For example, it would be better for a student to start off in a self-contained classroom for kindergarten, then move to an inclusion class by third grade, and then out into general education for middle school. Instead, we are seeing the reverse and kids are not getting the services they need early enough in their academic careers. Although a delay may not be as evident when a child is five and is not reading or speaking clearly, by the time a child is 9, those delays are magnified a hundred times over. Then they are switched into special education classes in the upper grades.
As a teacher, and parent who has had her children evaluated, I know the gift that early intervention can be to a child. For me, I now know the areas in which my children need a little extra help and patience as well as the areas that I can push them further than I would have thought possible. If you suspect that your child may have a delay in development, or need some extra support, I encourage you to take action. If your child is over the age of three, than you can contact your school district and ask to have your child evaluated. If your child is under the age of three, you can ask your pediatrician for assistance or call your local health department. The evaluation is free of cost to you and will provide you with so much useful information.
Thanks for reading,