The Importance of Early Intervention
All children develop at their own rate — some children prefer to observe and absorb information before trying something new, while other children simply go for it without a second’s thought! Neither way is right nor wrong; they are simply different. Each child learns in a distinct way, and that is okay. We want each and every child to explore new concepts and experiences in ways that feel natural and comfortable, because after all, our best learning occurs when we are in a relaxed state.
That being said, there is usually an average age range of certain milestones, and it is never a bad idea to be informed on when to look out for these skills. If you find your child displaying some delay in areas of development, he/she may require additional support via early intervention services. Luckily, there are a variety of resources that are available, and you can start here at Exceptional Speech Therapy.
What is Early Intervention?
The goal of early intervention is to help eligible children (0-3 years) gain the skills that develop during the first few years of life. Through research, it is widely believed that delays can best be addressed when they are discovered early. Services may include speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and more.
You may be wondering what are the skills and age ranges to look out for. Please find clearly depicted information on the developmental milestones, by following this link:
Why Early Intervention?
As previously mentioned, delays can best be addressed when they are discovered early — but why is this? The reason is because the brain’s activity during the first few years of life is busier than it will ever be. By the third year of life, one thousand trillion neural connections will have formed in a healthy brain!
Strong neural connections are created when an infant experiences a life event for the first time. When the experiences are repeated, even stronger neural connections are made. If experiences are not repeated, however, the brain will believe that those connections are not important enough to function, resulting in loss of neural pathways. The earlier that strong neural connections are created, the stronger the skills and behaviors are stored in the brain.
For children with developmental delays, there are often “unhelpful” neural connections that are created in the brain. These “unhelpful” neural connections often result in delays with communication, social skills, and more. Fortunately, with increased stimulation, the brain at this early age is able to re-process new neural pathways that are both functional and appropriate for learning. If we are able to identify areas of weakness in the child’s brain (e.g., communication skills, social skills, motor skills, etc.), significant change and adaptation can occur — although several key points must take place:
- Timing is Crucial – Due to brain plasticity between 0-3 years, the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome
Repetition, repetition, repetition – To change the wiring of neural connections, a learned skill must be practiced many times.
- Following a Hierarchy – It is essential to target simple tasks, before the more complex tasks. For example, before targeting following 1-step directions without cues, make sure your child has mastered the skill of following 1-step directions with cues.
Even if your child is older than 3 years, additional support can still be extremely beneficial. Experts believe that under the correct circumstances, billions of nerve cells in the brain can still make connections. Thus, although it’s recommended to begin prior to 3 years of age, it is never too late to start.
How Can I Get Started?
If you wonder or notice your child displaying some delays, it is important to receive a professional evaluation. Depending on where you are noticing some difficulties, talk to your child’s pediatrician to receive a referral from a specialized professional (e.g., speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, etc.). If you live in Florida, please call Exceptional Speech Therapy (786-717-5649), as our highly trained specialists can provide individualized evaluations to determine your child’s specific needs.
Furthermore, for those living in any state across the United States, it is a good idea to get in touch with your community’s early intervention program to determine if your child is eligible to receive services free of charge. For more information on how to get started with your local early intervention, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/concerned.html.
Many parents may feel fear in getting their child evaluated – what if something is wrong? What if there is a misdiagnosis? It is common to worry and delay seeking professional help. However, what many parents also come to realize later, is that overcoming the fear of a possible diagnosis (e.g., expressive-receptive language disorder) and understanding the root cause of any delay can make a significant difference in how a family supports their child and each other. It also makes a significant difference in how quickly children gain needed skills.
Furthermore, it is important to look at a diagnosis as a way to receive additional help, and not as a lifetime “label” for your child. Your child is still his or her wonderful, beautiful self — the only difference is that he/she may be receiving support in areas to be and feel their best. Don’t wait – remember that the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome. We are here to help.
-Andrea Scola, M.S., CCC-SLP, Exceptional Speech Therapy Blog Writer
Brain Plasticity & Early Intervention: “Neurons that fire together, wire together”. (2018, December 10). Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://autismtherapies.com/2018/07/24/brain-plasticity/
Concerned About Your Child’s Development? (2020, June 09). Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/concerned.html
Overview of Early Intervention. (2017, September 01). Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.parentcenterhub.org/ei-overview/
Parents Guide to Developmental Milestones. (2020, August 06). Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://childmind.org/guide/developmental-milestones/
What You Need to Know: Early Intervention. (n.d.). Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/2335-what-you-need-to-know-early-intervention
Why Act Early if You’re Concerned about Development? (2020, July 14). Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/whyActEarly.html