Tuesday, September 19, 2017
A return to Early Intervention, and it's all good
"He's eligible," the Early Intervention coordinator told me. We were seated in our living room along with Ben, a speech therapist and an occupational therapist. Ben had qualified for Early Intervention.
"That's good!" I responded. She seemed a bit taken aback by my enthusiastic reaction. "I have an older son who was in Early Intervention, and I'm glad to get Ben any extra support that could help him," I explained.
I meant every word.
Ben's speech has been coming along, but not at the pace it should. I knew it back last spring, and I didn't hesitate to get an EI evaluation. He didn't make it—he was just on the cusp. They told me to call back in a few months, and I did. This time, they decided he could use a weekly speech therapy session plus a separate one with a developmental interventionist, essentially a teacher.
We met with the teacher, Susan, last Friday. As is typical of EI, it consisted of play. Ben did an admirable job putting puzzle pieces in the right spot, making choices and asserting his needs ("Bubbles! NOW!"). The teacher kept remarking that he was doing an admirable job and had nice communication, along with how cute he was which makes him off-the-charts adorbs.
I was so calm and optimistic about Ben as we sat there, the opposite of how I'd felt years ago when Max entered Early Intervention at the ripe old age of two months. "Anxious mess" pretty much described my state back then, because I knew Max was at risk for not being able to do many things. "Get him as much therapy as possible," a renowned pediatric neurologist had advised us, and we did. Within the first year of his life, he had ten therapy sessions a week including speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. On weekends and after work, Dave and I took him to craniosacral therapy and hyperbaric oxygen treatment. We were driven by equal parts love and fear.
As the months passed, I grew to accept that Max was on his own timeline. I was still so worried about whether he'd walk and talk, and what the state of his cognition would be, but I took heart in the progress. When he started commando crawling at 15 months old, Dave and I rejoiced. It didn't matter that the other kids his age were walking or on the verge of it; Max was getting around, pulling his body forward with his arms because his limbs and torso weren't yet strong enough for him to crawl on all fours.
Max's physical therapist, Mindy, ultimately helped him walk, first with a walker and then independently. His speech came along, and then God and Steve Jobs (some believe them to be one and the same) invented the iPad, which opened up a whole new world of communication. When Max aged out of Early Intervention at three, I assembled a team of private therapists and got his EI occupational therapist to stick with us for a few more years. They've rotated in and out over the years, except for Jeri, who has been seeing Max since he was two years old.
I know there are parents out there who are hesitant to enroll their children in Early Intervention; one recent study I wrote about here found a big gap between the number of young children with disabilities and the number getting EI. Sometimes, parents worry about a perceived stigma. Sometimes, they just don't want to face up to the fact of a child's delays.
I have only gratitude to the legions of therapists who've seen Max through Early Intervention, at school and in our home, and who've helped him reach his capabilities and beyond. I am grateful to them for showing me and Dave how to better enable Max. I am excited to have two new OTs in his life who are helping Max figure out ways to be more independent, especially with personal care.
And now, I am genuinely happy to have therapists giving Ben a boost early on his life, when it can make a particularly big difference.
Toward the end of Ben's first therapy session, Max's bus showed up. Max headed into the living room and asked, "Who's that?" I explained that Susan was there to help Ben with his words. "Oh!" he said, and proceeded to plop down on the couch and watch and encourage Ben. "Good job!" he said when Ben put Mr. Potato Head's eyes on his face. A few minutes later, Sabrina walked in the door and she joined in as as well.
I watched my three children sitting together, and I felt so, so lucky.