D/HH Plus Column
Reflecting on Early Intervention
By Kim Shauer,
Parent and GBYS Coordinator, British Columbia H&V
Wikipedia defines Early Intervention as “a system of coordinated services that promotes the child’s growth and development and supports families during the critical early years. Starting with a partnership between parents and professionals at this early stage helps the child, family and community as a whole.”
I had vaguely heard this term prior to having our second child, but it had little meaning to me until we found ourselves needing it as a road map for the new path we found ourselves on once Julia was born. As we now prepare to transition our four year old daughter, Julia, into Kindergarten this upcoming September, I feel excited for what is to come and wistful in knowing I soon must say goodbye to these early years and the many amazing people who have helped shape this stage of our daughter’s development.
A little over four years ago, we took Julia home from the NICU at BC Children’s Hospital with a variety of referrals and suggestions on how to care for our new baby with a diagnosis of a rare chromosomal condition. Although Julia’s hearing loss would not be identified until 17 months of age, from the beginning she required the expertise of many medical specialists and community therapists including occupational therapy, physiotherapy, feeding team, vision therapy and IDP, or Infant Development Program (our Part C agency.) With the hard of hearing diagnosis on top of everything else, we added audiology, hearing aids, speech therapy and Deaf/Blind consultation to our growing team of services. (Julia was identified with moderately severe to profound loss hearing levels bilaterally.)
Looking back on those first weeks, it was our “early intervention” teams and the experienced people on those teams that humanized all of our feelings, helped soften the blow of the many diagnoses and navigated the various twists and turns for us through all of the information that had been provided. Before long, we felt ready to participate in supportive group settings that gave us the chance to meet other families in similar situations and with like-minded goals. These early intervention programs provided a safe place to talk, receive parent to parent support and learn from the experiences of families and the diverse needs of children who have come before us. In addition to being an invaluable resource, the social and emotional aspect of “early intervention” to our family has been as vital as the therapies and equipment that support Julia.
We will also take away the knowledge of how to confidently and effectively advocate for our children, along with the understanding that it is okay to take a break and do something for ourselves…and not feel guilty about it! I want to strongly encourage families to take full advantage of all of the early intervention services available to you. The number of appointments may seem daunting and the paperwork at times can feel endless. The various assessments we complete remind us to stop where we are once in awhile, take a good look around, re-evaluate the choices we have made and change direction if we feel it may be better for our child and our family.
Reflecting on our journey so far, I am glad we have made it a priority to capitalize on the opportunities available to us and develop relationships with our early intervention partners. At four years old, Julia is a healthy girl with a complex condition, multiple needs, the developmental age of a one-year-old and a smile that can light up an entire room. Through the help of our early intervention teams, I am feeling prepared for the next leg of our journey, and the road ahead seems bright with possibilities.
This article is reprinted with permission from BC Hands & Voices.