Children are such a blessing! It is wonderful that everyone is made so uniquely and with such different talents and personalities! Some children may be born with varying degrees of special needs from hearing loss to speech delay to cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome. Every child still has so much potential and joy to bring to those they meet! There are several programs in our area to assist children who may need a little extra help to reach their full potential, and I want to touch on some of those programs in case you know someone who needs a little extra therapy, but isn’t sure how to contact the correct people.
The first two years of life there are so many frequent check-ups, and there are many things that pediatricians check for at each visit, one of which being development. There are various ways that we screen for any development problems, and the goal is to notice any delays early and get the appropriate therapy to get that child back on track. Some of the developmental screenings such as the newborn screen (the blood test that is done on every newborn to check for specific congenital problems) and the hearing screen are two things that are done before a newborn even leaves the hospital!
At each well child check, your pediatrician will check your child’s gross motor, fine motor, communication, social, and problem solving development. If there are any delays or concerns or if a child was born premature or has a specific type of disability, they will refer you to Early Intervention. In Mobile, there are also feeding clinics, Developmental Pediatrics, Geneticists, various support groups, CRS (Children’s Rehabilitation Service), speech and occupational/physical therapy, and other subspecialists that your pediatrician may refer you to in addition to Early Intervention.
Early Intervention is a nationwide program committed to helping families and children receive any extra care and therapy they may need ranging from speech therapy and physical therapy to help getting hearing aids and wheelchairs. In Alabama, even parents and teachers or daycare workers can refer to Early Intervention. Once the referral is made, a supervisor will evaluate the child within two months to see what services will benefit him or her.
Once a child reaches three years old, Early Intervention transitions over to a pre-school setting. This means that a child has the option to attend a daycare that will provide extra services in a school setting and will provide more interactions with other children his or her age. For school age children that are noticed to have any learning disability or special need, they will have an IEP (Individualized Education Program) that helps coordinate specific education goals for teachers, counselors, and family members to help the child succeed.
If you have concerns that your child needs extra attention, but do not know how to start the process, the best place would be to make an appointment with your pediatrician to discuss your concerns, and they can guide you in the right direction and help you along the way. You can also approach the school board if your child is older than three years old. If you have a child younger than three who you think needs to be evaluated, then you can also contact Early Intervention through their website (www.rehab.alabama.gov) or by phone (1-800-543-3098).