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Early Intervention: Making the Right Call for Your Child

A mother shares her experience with state-funded program for speech evaluation.

No parent wants to admit there is a problem with their child; some developmental milestone they just aren't reaching. Our youngest of three recently turned 2 and he barely talks. He babbles and has a word here or there but gestures are the main way he gets his point across.

From experience and from friends who have multiple kids, we found that sometimes the youngest in the family is just a late talker. His or her siblings do all the talking for them and they don't need to rely on their words. We thought this was the case with our son. We were wrong.

At his recent annual examination our pediatrician thought it was time to give early intervention a call. Early Intervention is a state funded program that, in part, helps children reach their developmental milestones. His doctor knew we were on the fence as to if he had a problem. She convinced us they would either tell us he is fine or he could use some help. She was right and we had nothing to lose. I went home and made the call.

Two weeks from the initial call we had our in home evaluation. A team of two professionals, one a speech pathologist and the other a case manager, met with our youngest and us. They conducted a standardized test on him called the Battelle Developmental Inventory 2, which assesses him in 5 areas of development (Personal-Social, Adaptive, Motor, Communication, and Cognitive Ability). The team was very warm and friendly. While he seemingly played the case manager described each step to us from a clinical standpoint.

My husband and I were fascinated to learn so much from the evaluators. We hadn't made the connection between his poor eating and non verbal communication. For us, it was as if they turned on a light switch as we were starting to make connections. The way he eats, jamming all the food in his mouth and then spitting it out, can be indicative of him not knowing how to properly use his tongue to maneuver the food. His inability to properly make those movements can also be why he isn't making a variety of vowel and constant sound combinations and hence words.

We were relieved when they determined just communication to be the only milestone he had not reached; understanding "just" encompasses a huge umbrella of areas. The relief is in knowing we weren't missing something unexpected, which of course was in the back of our minds. We were happy he was determined eligible for the program and we were finally on the right track to help our son.

Making the call can be the hardest step. We are in the very early stages of the program and so far we couldn't be happier with what we have learned and the action plan going forward. Baby steps but we are getting there. And there will be filled with a wonderful new lexicon for our entire family.

To find out more about early intervention in New Jersey click on their website, http://www.njeis.org or call 1-888-653-4463. Children from birth to age three can apply for the program. The initial visit is free and if it is determined your child is eligible your case manager will discuss costs with you based on a sliding scale of family size and income.

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