EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 21, 2012

Letter: Early intervention can improve a child’s development

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — To the editor:

I am writing about a topic that has recently been very dear to me: Early Intervention. The general public, for the most part, would have, at best, heard of those two words. Most don’t know how important this program is for those who need it.

Up until a year and half ago, I was a part of that population. Then I had my daughter, a beautiful little girl with Down syndrome. Alyson was born with complications that kept her in the hospital for the first three and a half weeks of her life. That was difficult enough to deal with, but coupled with figuring out what it means to have a child with Down syndrome, the last thing we had thought about was what we were going to do to help her bridge the development delays that are expected.

Fortunately for us, Early Intervention exists. Early Intervention is a program that helps children, from birth to 3 years, with development delays greater than 30 percent of an “average typically developed” child. They cover services such as home visits by therapists and developmental educators, center visits, and groups. Currently, my child is receiving home visits.

Early Intervention is vital for several reasons. For families, such as ours, who are overwhelmed with a new diagnosis and health complications, the hospital contacts an Early Intervention center, in our case the Professional Center for Child Development, and coordinate everything for us. In fact, two days after Alyson was discharged, the PCCD had already completed her intake and set up an appointment to have her begin home visits.

Almost all therapists, medical professionals, and studies agree that the earlier a child gets intervention, the more likely they will be able to become independent, self-sufficient adults in the future. Younger children adapt to therapy more willingly than older children and are less likely to need therapy in the future. I believe that Alyson is a testament to that. At 18 months, Alyson has recently been evaluated to be within 30 percent deviation in three out of four areas of development.

In short, Early Intervention is a great program that gives many families the tools to help their kids become better people in the future. They have also helped me become a better advocate for my child. I am, as I’m sure many other parents are, very grateful for their existence.

I would also be remiss, if I didn’t mention that, as a parent, if you feel that your child (under 3) isn’t developing as you think they should, contact your local Early Intervention center to set up an appointment for an evaluation. This process does not have to be initiated by the hospital; anyone may request an evaluation and with it, help for a child.

Mychelle Lee