Five years ago, I was sitting in a meeting planning the schedule for the upcoming school year with the principal of the school and my fellow teachers. During the meeting, the school secretary walks in stating that there was a parent in the office who wanted to register her child for school and she wanted him to be tested for “special education.” I went to the front of the office to speak to the parent and my eyes were immediately drawn to her son. He looked to be about 5 or 6 (I did not know his age at the time) and he was rocking back and forth and flapping his hands. After I introduced myself to the mother and tried to obtain some background information, I was saddened to hear that her son had not had any prior interventions or services to address her concerns. He was 5 years old and did not verbally communicate. His name is Erick*.
Unfortunately, this was not my first experience with a child with developmental delays who never received any early intervention services. I have seen a number of children, Kindergarten age with some sort of developmental delay, who had their needs addressed only when they entered into the public school system.
So what is the issue? Why are some children not receiving early intervention services? Have the parents not been informed by the pediatrician that they are not hitting developmental milestones? Are some parents in denial? Are our governmental services failing our children?
To combat this issue Congress established Part C of the IDEA to help states with meeting the needs of infants and toddlers with developmental delays, to help families meet the needs of their child, and to establish early intervention services to minimize the need for special education services in the future. As part of the services, evaluations and assessments are offered to parents free of charge with an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) that guides families through the process. I have seen several children who have received early intervention services and/or intervention through a preschool program grow and excel enormously.
Early intervention is provided to help our children meet developmental milestones and to assist families in ways that they can help their child grow developmentally. Without early intervention, more and more children would be left behind with no help to address their needs. I do not know how different Erick’s development would have been if he had received early intervention services. Maybe he would have been communicating at five years old or maybe he would have displayed different social behaviors by the time he entered into Kindergarten. We will never know.
But in the end, Eric was placed in my classroom and I taught him for three years. I am happy to say that Erick is speaking now and has come a long way. It is important to remember that EARLY INTERVENTION IS KEY.
If you are a parent who may have questions about your child’s development, talk with your pediatrician first. In addition, contact your State’s Health and Human Services department to see if your child qualifies for the Infant and Toddler Early Intervention Program and any other available services.
*name has been changed