As you know, K has a condition called Neurofibromatosis or NF1. One of the most common side effects of the condition is a predisposition toward learning disabilities or delays. A few months ago, one of her day care teachers hesitatingly suggested that we might want to consider looking into Early Intervention for K because at the time she still wasn’t crawling, and she was almost a year old. I meant to contact them, but frankly just never got around to it.
By K’s first birthday, she had *just* started military crawling, and her pediatrician also suggested that we contact Early Intervention as well. While he didn’t seem super worried, it was clear that K was on the latter end of the scale for a few different milestones. Massachusetts has a great program that ensures that any child can get a early intervention assessment for free. If they qualify for the program, the cost is covered by their insurance or by the state, with a (relatively) nominal fee from the parents based on a sliding income scale.
Given her NF, she automatically qualifies for the service for the first three years of life anyway, but the assessment helps us pinpoint the areas where she needs the most support. After I finally got off my ass to schedule it, K had her assessment on her 14-month birthday, and as expected, her area of greatest weakness is in her gross motor development. She was tracking at about 9 months. Everything else is about 12 months, so a little behind, but not too bad. This morning, we met with K’s new EI coordinator who will be meeting with K on a weekly basis moving forward, mostly at day care, but obviously we’ll be poking our heads in from time to time.
Let me stop all of you who are itching to hit the comments section and tell me about all the kids you know who didn’t start walking until they were 18 months and how they are perfectly fine today. I do NOT think that there is anything wrong with my little girl. But I also know that the earlier you begin to address learning delays the easier and faster it is for a kid to overcome them. I know she’s prone to the delays, and if there are services that are available to us, why not avail ourselves of them? I might joke about K being lazy, but the truth is that she’s clearly motivated to do a lot of these things – she just hasn’t quite gotten there yet. She will; I have no doubt. And I’ll be left longing for these days of relative peace. 🙂
There are two fascinating things about this process though. The first is a reminder of something we (and every other parent) have witnessed from the day this little tiny being wails their first cry. In the two weeks between her assessment and our meeting this morning to develop her “plan,” K has been on a high-speed train through development (and a real high-speed train, not the Acela). Two weeks ago, she couldn’t open a small jewelry box and would ask for help. Now she can. She couldn’t stand without pulling herself up on something; now she can. She could only stay standing for seconds, she can now do it for a lengthy period of time. She can feed herself oatmeal (sort of). It’s been super fun to watch in such a short period of time.
The second fascinating thing about this is how sensitive people seem to be about Early Intervention. I’ve met parents who don’t like to talk about it or who seem ashamed, and people who seem surprised that I’m so open about it. There’s nothing wrong with my kid (or anyone else’s that is developmentally delayed). But she’s going to require a little extra help in some areas. And that’s just fine. Other kids have to be encouraged to read or to take a nap or to sleep through the night or to drink out of a sippy cup or or or or or…. It’s sort of surprising that there is still something of a stigma around a topic like this. I’ll grant you that it’s slight, but it’s really interesting to observe. Even some (not all) of the people who are anxious to reassure me by telling me about how little Johnny didn’t walk until he was 18 months are doing so to assure me that my kid isn’t really delayed. Now that may be true, since the walking age spectrum is certainly a very large one, but it’s just as likely that she may need a little help.
What matters is that she’s engaged, interested and progressing – at whatever rate that suits her.