Saturday, November 7, 2009

Never too early

The Department of Public Health is proposing a $2 Million cut to the Early Intervention program in Massachusetts. This would translate to a cut in services to thousands of kids who have developmental delays and thus need assistance to overcome those delays. Charlie is one of these kids.

I felt the need to speak out. This is the testimony I delivered at the public hearing. Charlie was in my arms as I spoke. Nice prop, yes?


Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

I am the parent of a child who has received services from the Early Intervention system. My son Charlie is 22-months-old. Six months ago he couldn't walk; he couldn't crawl; he couldn't even roll over. When Charlie was 12-months-old, we noticed that he hadn't yet achieved some of the milestones that were typical of babies that age. We didn't worry because we knew that every child was different.

However, by the time Charlie reached 15-months-old, we finally could see that we were facing something that was more than just a difference in his timeline to achieve the dedicated milestones of toddlers. Charlie wasn't able to move his body the same way as other children the same age. Charlie wasn't able to make sounds and vocalizations the same way as other children the same age. We were finally able to see that something was wrong.

We needed help. We are thankful everyday that we learned about Early Intervention Services in our area. We made the call right away.

Almost immediately, upon meeting with an Early Intervention Specialist, Charlie received an assessment and was it was determined that he had a 30% delay ingross motor skills. Thankfully, he was able to receive services. Within 3 months Charlie was not only rolling and crawling, but he was walking and running (to the best of his ability), and exploring his world with excitement and enthusiasm.

If the proposed changes are made to the Early Intervention program in Massachusetts, children like Charlie would not receive services. I shudder to think how much harder our road would have been if we had been forced to travel it without the caring and professional assistance of the specialists within the Early Intervention program.

According to the Global School Psychology Network*, there is 50 years of quantitative and qualitative research that early intervention increases the developmental and educational gains for the child, improves the functioning of the family, and reaps long-term benefits for society.

"Early intervention has been shown to result in the child:

  • Needing fewer special education and other rehabilitative services later in life
  • Being retained in grade less often
  • In some cases being indistinguishable from non-handicapped classmates years after intervention"
The same research has also concluded that "the rate of human learning and development is most rapid in the preschool years. The timing of intervention becomes particularly important when a child runs the risk of missing an opportunity to learn during a state of maximum readiness. If the most teachable moments or stages of greatest readiness are not taken advantage of, a child may have difficulty learning a particular skill at a later time."

In my family's case, we were fortunate enough to receive the assistance from Early Intervention services at a time when my young child so desperately wanted to grow and learn and explore. If Charlie had been denied these services, not only would we have had to find private resources to help us, but Charlie would have lost out on crucial time that is so important in the development of the young mind and body of a toddler.

It is my sincere hope that other children will be given the same chance Charlie to overcome their developmental delays. Early Intervention offers critical support to children and families. It would be a devastating blow if the program was restricted in any way that would limit the services to those who so greatly need them.

I thank you for your time and consideration of my comments.

Jessica Stephens Siler