Your Child Birth to Age Three
by Erika Goyer, Hand to Hold Family Support Navigator and Program Director
Every child has unique strengths and weaknesses and every child deserves an education that addresses their instructional needs. If you suspect your child has a learning disability don’t hesitate to seek help. Your child is not alone. According to LD Online The National Institutes of Health estimate that one in seven Americans has a learning disability and more than 2.7 million students in our public schools receive special help and instruction in school because of their learning disabilities. There are resources available for students and their families – including experienced, caring professionals who can guide you the screening and evaluation process as you find the tools to help you address your child’s unique educational needs.
Getting Help Early
Learning disabilities aren’t always obvious. However, there are some signs that could mean your child needs help. Keep in mind that children develop and learn at different rates – especially if they were born prematurely or spent time in the NICU. Because you know your child and their developmental history better than anyone else you are their best advocate. So trust your instincts. If you are concerned your child’s development is out of sync with their siblings’ or peers’ talk to your doctor. And be sure to let your pediatrician know if your child shows any of the following signs:
- Delays in language development.
- Trouble with speech.
- Trouble with coordination and fine motor skills.
- Short attention spans.
What your child’s doctor might do
Sometimes more information is needed about your child before your child’s doctor can address your concerns. The doctor may:
- Ask you some questions or ask you to fill out a questionnaire.
- Use developmental screening tools that address your specific concerns.
- Interact with your child in various ways to learn more about their development.
- Prescribe a hearing screening with an audiologist.
- Refer you to a speech and language pathologist for testing. The SLP will evaluate your child’s speech (expressive language) and ability to understand speech and gestures (receptive language).
- Refer your child for evaluation through an early intervention program.
What to expect after the doctor’s visit
- If your child’s doctor tells you not to worry (that your child will “catch up in time”) but you are still concerned, it’s OK to get a second opinion.
- You can ask your child’s doctor for a referral to a developmental specialist or a speech and language therapist.
- If what your child says (expressive language) is the only delay, you may be given suggestions to help your child at home. Formal speech therapy may also be recommended.
- If both what your child understands (receptive language) and what he or she says are delayed and a hearing test is normal, your child will need further evaluation. This will determine whether the delays are caused by a true communication disorder, generalized developmental delays, an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or another developmental problem.
How ECI Can Help
Early Childhood Intervention programs are available in every state. This is because states have a mandate to serve any child from birth to age three who has a developmental delay, atypical development or a diagnosed medical condition. Anyone, including the parents, can refer a child for Early Intervention Services by contacting their state agency or talking to their pediatrician. Once a referral is made your early intervention program provides an evaluation, at no cost to families, to determine eligibility and the need for services. Families and professionals work together as a team to plan appropriate services based on the unique strengths and needs of the child and family. This is called an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and should be completed within 45 days of the referral. All the services your child qualifies for will be managed by the Early Intervention Service Coordinator with your assistance.
Read… What to Do if You Suspect Your Child has a Developmental Delay or Learning Disability: Finding Help for Your Preschooler (Age 3 and up)
Erika Goyer is the mother of three boys. Her oldest son Carrick Michael was born at 27 weeks gestation and weighed 1 pound, 14 ounces. Carrick died soon after his birth due to complications of prematurity. Erika went on to have two more high-risk pregnancies and two healthy sons, one of whom has developmental delays.