The Benefits and Importance of Early Intervention
From the time a child takes its first breath, the child’s brain, reflexes, body and self-organizing sensory system all are trying to make sense of this new, bright world and how to connect with those around him or her.
Early child development is a complex and long-studied process that includes the identification of developmental “milestones” for specific age ranges that indicate whether infants and toddlers are developing normally. These milestones are numerous and range from making eye contact with their parents to using their hands and feet to explore everything around them to socializing and beginning to form healthy relationships with others. Missing critical developmental milestones should not be overlooked because they may represent initial indicators of a developmental delay and/or disability such as autism.
Parents who are concerned about their child’s development should explore evaluation and assessment immediately. A “wait-and-see” or “my child will grow out of it” approach could delay diagnosis and intervention, which could lead to potential lifelong educational and behavioral difficulties. While it can be scary, an early diagnosis is good news because early intervention programs are very effective and help parents improve their child’s overall development, and can pave the way for more successful transitions to school and beyond.
Early Intervention is impactful because the first three years of life is an incredibly rapid and exciting period of brain development, and extensive research has shown that play-based activities and routines in a language-rich home during this period helps increase a child’s overall developmental potential. The family’s home and other areas frequently visited by the family are considered natural environments and are the most important learning spaces and settings for infants and toddlers.
Early intervention specialists design an individualized in-home program that has goals and detailed “how to” instructions showing parents how, through several series of small steps, they can stimulate and support the child’s physical, mental and emotional development. Each in-home program will respectfully consider and support a family’s culture, values, home language and everyday routines and activities. Educational programs are individually designed to meet the child’s developmental needs, regardless of the child’s degree of delay.
The benefits and importance of early intervention programs can be measured in many ways. Children who learn how to connect and respond to those around them are better prepared to thrive in school. Success in school can lead to good social relationships and a better life overall.
The parent-child relationship benefits, too. In the beginning, when developmental issues are first noticed, parents are often overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty about what they can or should do. In an early intervention program, they are taught precisely how they can make a difference for their child. Parents essentially come to understand that they are their child’s primary teacher, and as they move through the program, their confidence is strengthened as they experience how their child best learns, communicates, connects and begins to solve complex problems. They come to find out that the most important parent tools are their time and attention.
The late Bev Bos, a teacher, author and advocate for play-based learning for preschoolers, had it right when she said: “Parents benefit in knowing that to ‘be’ with their child is what matters most, especially when life seems so stressful.”
The long-term goal of early intervention is to turn parents into strong educational advocates for their child and have them understand and accept that they are and will continue to be their child’s most important and lifelong teachers.
Learn more about Evaluation & Diagnostic or Infant Development & Early Intervention services available through 360 Behavioral Health.