Each child grows, learns and develops at a different pace. But when my daughter’s second birthday neared and she still barely made a peep, I did what I do best: panic. I had no doubt in my mind she was incredibly active, bright, sweet, attentive, smart and social. Still, as a parent, I naturally felt that I should consult with her pediatrician about why she hadn’t started to talk yet. Shortly after we celebrated her birthday, I contacted the state’s Early Intervention Program for my 2-year-old to get evaluated — and it turned out to be one of the best parenting decisions I have ever made for my daughter.
Without the help of this special state program, my daughter might still be struggling to speak and communicate.
What is early intervention and how does it work?
Our pediatrician wasn’t concerned about my daughter’s lack of speaking, but still referred me to Passaic County’s Early Intervention office. The kind woman that was assigned to serve as my daughter’s service coordinator explained to me that Early Intervention is a group of services available to infants, toddlers and young children with developmental delays or disabilities. These types of services include speech therapy, physical therapy and other support methods to help correct or improve certain developmental delays or issues.
The service coordinator quickly set up an initial evaluation for my 2-year-old, conducted by a team of therapists from the state’s Early Intervention Program. This evaluation consisted of a question-and-answer session between myself and the therapists — and a series of tests and tasks for my daughter to complete — to get a feel for where her physical, cognitive, communicative, self-help, social and sensory processing skills were at. The team made this process so much easier for us by visiting our home so that my daughter was able to feel the most comfortable during the evaluation. They also answered my questions (and there were lots of them) with kindness and compassion, even comforting me when I got a little emotional and overwhelmed by the whole experience.
Seeing the benefits of speech therapy
After ruling out hearing problems and any other outlying health condition, my service coordinator discussed my daughter’s evaluation test scores with me. My daughter was diagnosed with a common developmental speech delay, and the team encouraged me to enroll her in a speech therapy session once a week with a Passaic County Early Intervention speech therapist. My daughter’s speech therapist contacted me shortly after and arrived for her very first speech therapy session a week later. At first, my quiet 2-year-old was shy and even a little uncooperative — but that never stopped her speech therapist from showing up every single week with a huge smile and positive attitude.
The power of a loving speech therapist
Each speech therapy session was filled with small victories and tons of ups and downs. There were some weeks where my daughter would take almost the entire session to even start participating. Then there were weeks when I watched as my 2-year-old excitedly waited for her speech therapist’s familiar knock on our front door. During these sessions, no matter how much progress was being made, I was so incredibly thankful. Our speech therapist was kind, uplifting and extremely knowledgeable. Not only did she ultimately teach my daughter how to speak — but she also educated me about her speech delay, and taught me the tools I needed to encourage my daughter to talk. These small gestures might not seem like a big deal to her, but they meant everything to me — a mom who desperately wanted her daughter to communicate with her.
After about six months, my 2-year-old went from not saying a single word to speaking in full sentences. The speech therapist from the Early Intervention Program helped my once quiet toddler express herself, and by doing so, she boosted her confidence and abilities to a whole new level. Even on the days my now very vocal 3-year-old is disagreeing with me, I don’t ever take her ability to speak for granted — and we owe it all to New Jersey’s Early Intervention program.
For more information and frequently asked questions about New Jersey’s Early Intervention program and services, click here.