Early Intervention for Suspected Developmental Delays
Leading an early childhood classroom is a lot more involved than it seems from the outside. Yes we have a circle time and read stories. Sure we are asking kids about their family camping trip. All the while we pretend camp, throwing in letter sounds, vocabulary words, shapes, and fine motor skills, turning play time into learning time. The whole time we are also assessing without assessments. We note which students need extra help learning those letter sounds, and which students can tie the toy apron on before washing the pretend dishes. We also notice which students struggle.
We have seen more three, four, and five year olds and their language, motor skills, attention spans, cognition, emotional regulation, and social skills than most other people. That does not make us doctors, psychologists, or social workers. It does make us the first professionals that may confront a parent about missing developmentally appropriate skills. If we have concerns we may recommend a developmental assessment by a qualified medical professional.
Better Safe Than Sorry
There is no harm in having an assessment like this. If we are overly cautious, and a child falls within the range of behaviors that don’t need intervention, some time and copays have been wasted. If intervention is warranted, it can mean the difference between functioning with a minor or major disability as an adult. Early intervention can make it possible to attend mainstream classrooms, develop typical communication skills, and stop behavior issues. Early intervention can literally rewire the brain. This is why we have difficult conversations with parents. Children that need help deserve to have someone take risks on their behalf.
Why Not the School District?
People have asked, why get a medical diagnosis? Why not go to the school district and get an IEP (or 504 plan) and obtain services that way? That is a great question. We have had students in preschool here with IEPs and we welcome meetings with therapists and other professionals. We have held IEP meetings on site. While an IEP is a great thing to have to protect your child, they are hard to get, don’t cover all disabilities, and you have to meet strict criteria. You child could need early intervention, and you call the school district, go to be evaluated and then they tell you that everything is ok. That false reassurance will keep you from getting the help that your child needs. That is not good for your child. Also specifically with autism, if your child has a medical diagnosis from a doctor that your insurance company usually picks in advance, that are early intervention therapies that your insurance must cover under state of Michigan law. We suggested you try to get both medical/private intervention and help from the school district, and to get the medical intervention first.