Knowing when to wait for a child to outgrow an issue and when to seek help can be a daunting task, but too much help is better than too little. Early intervention is key in allowing young children to catch up and control behavioral issues.
Photo copyright of Noelle Ann Photography
When I pick up our 3-year-old son from the fitness childcare center, I frequently hear something along the lines of “Dexter was great again today! He played independently, helped out the little babies, and was just overall easy!”
A year ago, this was not the case. In fact, when I was pregnant with our second child, the gym had to write an “incident report” when Dexter hit another girl over the head with a toy and broke the skin. In his defense, she was taking away his toys and he was still unable to speak, but it was the last straw for me. That was the moment when I decided to stop taking him to any function with children. It was overwhelming for him and exhausting for me.
Now, a year later, Dexter uses age-appropriate words and sentence structure, and his behavioral issues have all but disappeared. He will still get whiny or emotional if he’s tired, constipated, or hungry, but overall he is an independent, imaginative, kind, and obedient little boy. The nonstop and high maintenance 2-year-old seems like the evil twin of our current little boy, and my husband and I talk about those days as if they were a bad dream. To be clear, we still loved and adored him even when he zapped all of our emotional and physical energy, but we shake our heads in disbelief that we made it through those first two years.
It’s possible that Dexter just outgrew that stage of his life, but the more likely reason for his maturation is the services he received from Help Me Grow (HMG), his speech language pathologist (SLP), and recently, Sylvania Schools. We scheduled an evaluation at HMG when he was just over two, and we were dismayed to hear them say they suspected a speech delay, sensory processing disorder, and mild low muscle tone. We knew his speech was lagging and he was more active than most toddlers his age, so when we heard the diagnoses, it all made sense.
Gena Keith, our Early Intervention Developmental Specialist from HMG, came over once a week to work with Dex, and the HMG occupational therapist visited once a month. They both gave us seemingly simple tricks to help him build muscle tone and address his sensory seeking needs, and we immediately noticed a difference in Dex’s behavior.
After a few weeks of speech therapy, our SLP, Katie Nelson, administered the Kaufman Speech Praxis Test (KSPT). Dexter’s results confirmed what Nelson had already suspected: childhood apraxia of speech. We were bummed by yet another label, but addressing the other issues had proven so effective that we were anxious to tackle the speech apraxia as well. As Dexter’s speech continued to improve, his sensory seeking behavior seemed to slowly dissipate.
When Dexter turned 3, we enrolled him in preschool, where he is part of the special education program. He didn’t start school until this past February, but in those few short months before school concluded for summer, Dex blossomed. His speech advanced rapidly, his behavior drastically improved, and he turned into the easy little boy that merits rave reviews from childcare workers and strangers at the store!
Maybe Dexter didn’t need all of that therapy--maybe he would have outgrown all of this on his own--but we believe it all helped make him the awesome little boy he is today. It certainly didn’t hurt! While obviously it was tough to admit our son had special needs, we are so thankful we acted upon our concerns and sought out help. He still has his moments, just like any other 3-year-old, but I now have the pleasure of the world seeing the same sweet little boy that I have always seen.
Have you had positive or negative experiences with early intervention services? I'd love to hear your thoughts.