By Amanda Morin
Is your child showing signs of developmental delays? If so, you can try strategies at home and get outside help, including early intervention services. Here are some tips to try.
The more you know about skills to expect at certain ages, the better you’ll be able to spot any lags in development. Talk with your doctor right away if you have concerns about your child’s development.
Jot down notes about skills you see or don’t see in your child. Include dates. Your observations are very helpful when talking with doctors and early intervention specialists.
For example, kids born prematurely are often slower to meet developmental milestones. For the first year, consider your preemie’s gestational age, not just her chronological age. If your child was born 10 weeks early, expect her to crawl about 10 weeks later than other babies.
Your child’s doctor can rule out other problems such as hearing or vision weaknesses, which can interfere with development. The pediatrician can also help explain which skills are appropriate at your child’s age, refer your child to your local early intervention agency, if necessary, and set up other screenings.
Learn about early intervention services and find out who does free developmental screening. An early intervention agency may recommend an in-depth evaluation of your child’s physical, social, language, adaptive and thinking skills. This is a free or low-cost service.If your child qualifies for early intervention services, you can get an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) that will provide help for you and your child.
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Be in regular contact with your child’s teacher to exchange information about concerns. Also, talk about strategies for the classroom. The teacher may try informal accommodations to help build your child’s skills.
Once your child is 3, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) can provide services to help her. The early intervention agency will work with you and the preschool to create an IEP. When your child goes to kindergarten, a transition-to-school meeting will be held to transfer her IEP.
With school supports in place, take notes on your child’s progress. You can talk to your child’s teacher about how she’s progressing and learn about how schools monitor student progress.
Your child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is the written game plan for her services. By thinking ahead and bringing notes to the meeting, you’ll be better able to help shape the IFSP.
If your child doesn’t qualify for early intervention services, it’s not the end of the road. Learn steps you can take to advocate for your child.
Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.
Elizabeth Harstad, M.D., M.P.H., is a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.
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