Welcome to the Collaborative Youth Team’s monthly column, “Parenting Matters!” The Collaborative Youth Team is a partnership of 24 youth and family service organizations and agencies that are here to serve you. Each month, a different partner offers practical tips for restoring balance within our families and for building resiliency in our youth.
This month’s column is shared by Erik Johnson, vice president of development for Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region.
The first five years of life are essential for children’s future development; yet, each year, more than a million children enter kindergarten without the necessary skills to become successful. Since children’s early experiences set the foundation for later brain development and future skill acquisition, the beginning years reflect an especially important time for nurturing children’s growth.
Here is one story that illustrates the impact of early identification and early intervention.
Ben Jimenez was about 18 months old when his parents noticed delays in his speech. They spoke to their pediatrician about their concerns, and were told that Ben’s delays were because he was living in a bilingual family. Not satisfied with this explanation, Ben’s parents explored their options and found Easter Seals.
After six months of therapy, Ben is making great progress. When he talks, he speaks in full sentences and is understood by others. And, thanks to a knowledgeable team of speech and occupational therapists, Ben’s parents better understand his sensory issues and fine motor-skill needs.
Ben’s mom explains, “Ben’s diagnosis didn’t come as a big surprise, it was more of a relief. Our goal is to provide all the necessary interventions as early as possible to be sure he has the best outcomes. Seeing Ben’s progress thus far has given us great hope and inspiration.”
In fact, Ben is doing so well communicating in his primary language, English, his parents hope someday soon he will be able to speak Spanish with his grandparents.
Barriers to early screenings, intervention and supportive care hinder the optimal development of young children with developmental delays and disabilities. As a result, these children are at increased risk for later school failure.
Every year, more than 25 percent of American children younger than five enter preschool at risk for developmental delays, behavioral problems, or specific health-care needs.
Gauging a child’s developmental progress is not always easy. Children develop skills, or milestones, at their own pace. Parents may question, “How is my child doing?”
Here are some tips for parents who have questions or concerns about their child’s development and school readiness:
1. Take a developmental milestone screening to assess your child’s developmental progress. Visit askeasterseals.org to access the Ages & Stages questionnaire.
2. If you have concerns about your child’s development, talk to your pediatrician about getting an evaluation.
3. Trust your gut. If you are not comfortable with your pediatrician’s assessment, get the opinion of other professionals.
4. Talk to friends and others. You’ll be surprised and reassured how many parents have gone through similar situations.
5. Educate yourself by seeking information and resources.
6. If your child is diagnosed with a developmental delay or disability, start them in services right away. The earlier the intervention the better!