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Managing the Early Intervention System

Posted by on December 19th, 2011 |

As a new parent it can be difficult to know what is “typical” development in your child. New parents get advice from trusted grandparents, preschool teacher, pediatricians and other parents. Often the advice that is given is “your child is fine, don’t worry about it, they will grow out of it.” And often this advice is correct and comforting, but when is it time to consult with a professional such as an early intervention specialist or child clinical psychologist about your child’s development?

First, my biggest piece of advice is that consulting with an early childhood specialist cannot hurt and may be able to help. Even if this help is just in the form of reassuring you that everything is fine. But if there is something delayed in your child’s development, this assessment is paramount for best outcome. And if delays linger, the family is already hooked into the special education services of the school system because of their participation in early intervention services.

So when should you have concerns about your child’s development?

General guidelines are as follows:

For speech/ communication skills: a child should be able to speak in single words by age one, be combining two words by age 2 and combining 3 words by age 3.  By age one the child should be imitating sounds. By age two they should follow simple directions and by the age of three they should name people seen less than weekly and name 20 pictured items.

For physical motor development: is expected that children have the physical skills to walk by age 16 months (although the average age for walking is around the first birthday.) Walk up stairs by 2 years and throw a ball and stack 8 blocks by 3 years.

For adaptive behavior: a child should be able to change positions to pick up something and pick up a dropped object by their first birthday. By age 2 they should be able to hold out their arms for dressing and take off shoes and socks. By age 3 children should be able to put things away and take off their shirt.

For social-emotional behavior: a child should look at a talking adult and show negative reactions by their first birthday. By age 2 they should be able to explore new places and express fondness for relatives. By age three they should be able to respond to familiar adults and understand what “my” means.

For cognitive skills: a child should bang objects together and imitate gestures around their first birthdays. By age 2 they should be able to point to body parts and use pencil or crayon.

And what exactly is Early Intervention?

Early Intervention is a service offered by the government to provide early speech, occupational therapy, or family support to children aged 0-3.  Their website (http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=30321) gives important information about how to have your child evaluated and how to start the process of therapies.  Many times parents do not know that this sort of support exists. Developmental specialists come to your home, free of charge to work with a child on anything from for example feeding issues, low motor tone, suspected autism, cognitive delays or sensory oversensitivity.  Sometimes children who are born prematurely or with clear developmental delays are referred directly into the program from the hospital and a development specialist will be at your home within days to help.

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