“It takes a village..” and the teachers we have through the Early Intervention program are my village.
As a first time mom, I read a ton of books about child development and although doctors say “every child develops at different paces” I constantly checked to make sure my son was reaching his milestones every month.
He always seemed to meet his milestones, but just differently. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and since we didn’t know anyone else with newborns at the time, we just chalked it up to his uniqueness. Looking back, however, there were several early signs of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), but it wasn’t until a severe adverse reaction to baby puree that realized we needed help.
My son did really cute and quirky things before we noticed anything serious. I remember when he learned to crawl, he never got up on his hands and knees. He would drag his body around by his elbows, like an army crawl, but man was he fast! When we would go out, people would always compliment on what a quiet and well behaved baby I had. I thought he was just enjoying the ride and taking it all in.
Then around 8 months while feeding him stage 3 puree, he started gagging. But he wasn’t gagging from choking, it was because of the smell or taste or texture of the puree. The next day, I couldn’t even get him into the highchair. He writhed and screamed, associating the chair with the terrible meal he had the day before. After that any food, the chair, a spoon, his bib, or anything else associated with mealtime automatically triggered a gag reflex and he would go into hysterics. I called my Mom in tears asking for advice, since she was an Occupational Therapist I hoped there was something she could do.
She put me in touch with a wonderful Speech Therapist who gave me tons of advice to help my son overcome his fear of mealtime. After a few months though, it became apparent that we needed more help. We scheduled an evaluation with the Early Intervention program in our county and found out that there were more areas of concerns other than his eating issue. All his little quirky things were actually red flags of delay. The meeting was so informative and soon we were in touch with a Coordinator who helped us through the entire process of putting together a team of teachers for us.
After utilizing these services for over a year and seeing the amazing progress our son has made, I find it startling to hear so many other parents have felt similar “concerns” about their child, but the idea of EI seemed so threatening: All that paperwork. All the meetings. And that would mean something was wrong with my child.
Early Intervention is anything but intimidating. In fact, it’s been a tremendous support for my family and tons of fun! Maybe it’s because my Mom has been an OT for 15 years and my perspective has always been that she just plays games with her kids. And as my Mom would say, “that’s because children learn through play.”
Our teachers have been my village, helping me to understand my son’s world while giving me the tools to help him grow and learn. Through puzzles and bubbles, songs and toys, these wonderful people have helped him overcome huge learning obstacles. Every week we determine new goals to work on, we discuss my struggles and worries, and we work together to find new ways to reach my son.
Early Intervention has also been a lot of work, but I never felt like I had to do it alone. My team of teachers have formed beautiful bonds with my son; they are our family now too. They don’t judge or criticize, and motivate me every week because even blinks of progress are still to be celebrated. I look forward to seeing each of them every week as much as my son does, and our sessions are full of smiles and laughs.
The greatest compliment is to see how wonderful my son is doing and the surprise when people learn that he’s in EI. And that’s because my village is awesome!
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