Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Got Early Intervention questions? An expert is here to answer them!
I remember very clearly when I first learned about Early Intervention. Max was a week old, and I was talking with the social worker in the NICU. I had lived many lifetimes in the days since he was born, and my head was finally in a place where I could start looking ahead. This woman told me about therapy services the government provided to kids with special needs; she'd looked up our local EI, and handed me the phone number for the coordinator. I called the same day. Within a month, Max was getting physical therapy.
I credit the therapies Max got through EI with spurring him to crawl on all fours and eventually walk; improving his grasp and generally giving his fine-motor skills a boost; encouraging him to make sounds; and much, much more. Five years after he finished it, I am still grateful for what EI did for hi, and I will forever will be.
Sadly, a lot of kids who need EI aren't getting it—which is where Make The First Five Count comes in. An Easter Seals initiative, it's all about the need for detecting developmental delays and getting kids treatment before age 5, a critical period for development. Each year, more than 1,000,000 kids with unidentified disabilities and delays enter school with learning and health issues that put them far behind their peers. "Pediatricians and childcare providers can help, but there's a lot of room for improvement," says Patricia Wright, Ph.D., M.P.H., National Director, Autism Services and Programs, Easter Seals, who's worked for people with disabilities for 29 years. "Right now, there are about 340,000 kids in EI nationwide," she says. "We think about 1.6 million kids could be eligible, based on data, but aren't yet."
Easter Seals now has a free online Developmental Milestones Screening parents can fill out online to see if kids ages 1 month to 5 years old are developing on time. The questionnaire is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and funded by CVS Caremark, with whom I've been doing work, through their foundation the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust. It takes just 10 to 20 minutes to complete and you get results within two weeks, along with tailored information if necessary (based on your zip code) about local EI services.
"This screening is for everyone—not just for parents who think there's an issue," says Wright. "You'll find out if your child is hitting social, emotional, physical and intellectual milestones, or not." And if your child needs EI? Well, consider yourself lucky. "We know that if you intervene at age 2, a child will have more success than if an intervention is done at age 6," says Wright. "Kids have so much opportunity for learning in those young years—their brains are so malleable. The delay gap is so much smaller when they're young. Better to get in there and help!"
How did you first find out about Early Intervention? Do you have any questions about EI? Patricia Wright is ready to jump in and answer them!
This is one of a series of posts sponsored by CVS Caremark All Kids Can, a commitment to helping children of all abilities be the best they can be. Like them on Facebook!