How My Son Got Into Preschool: The Interesting Journey through Early Intervention to Preschool

This is a continuation of sorts to my previous post, to which I will summarize for those who didn’t catch it. I was anxiously awaiting the decision of my son’s fate being able to continue services through our local preschool’s special needs program. My son started into this journey because he barely spoke one or two words by the time he turned 1. After nearly a year of Early Intervention services, he has come so far though he is still much behind other kids his age or even a bit younger. I see kids younger than him that have an easier time expressing themselves and communicating, and I feel guilty that I have somehow failed my toddler. It isn’t true though; I didn’t fail him. He only missed 3  weekly sessions between both specialists in the past year, due to illness. I sat by diligently observing the sessions to see how I could help him, and listened to every piece of advice I was given to help. At age 3, he would be able to receive these services no longer and our only hope to continue these types of services was through the local preschool.

The meeting went pretty much as I had predicted, which I will get into. The evaluators were the school psychologist and the speech pathologist. The psychologist started speaking quite frankly to us. “I witnessed some worrisome behaviors”. “He has incredible attention and focus issues and is really unable to sit still for any amount of time”. “He is quite brilliant”. I was all over the place with what was going to happen. Not that I didn’t understand what she was saying; I understood everything she was saying. But it was all mixed signals. I felt I knew where this was going though. The speech pathologist also remarked how intelligent he was, but noted that she did not feel he had a speech delay. (This point was argued by my son’s actual speech pathologist, stating that not giving him specialize services could be detrimental to his progress, as she feels he may be diagnosed with apraxia, which can’t be diagnosed until 3.)When that happened, my heart dropped. This experience could have been good for him. It could have helped him.

Finally, after the evaluators stopped talking, the head of the special needs program spoke and mentioned it was decision time. She informed us that she had a checklist she needed to go through to see if he qualified. She asked the speech pathologist if there was a speech delay, she said “no, not significant enough”. I remembered thinking it was easy for her to say after only spending 20 minutes with him. The special needs lead said “cognition and social delay”. The psychologist said “absolutely yes, to a point of hindering his speech and possibly his future education”. After a the rest of the list was “no”, I had started to give up hope that this was going to happen. The lead circled another item or two on the list, and looked up saying “your son qualifies for services, so we’re going to draw up the IEP”. The moral of this story? As I had predicted, he would not get in on his speech. Also as I predicted, he got in based on his overly energetic, mischievous, curious and often troublemaker behaviors. (It was later joked by my husband that they took so much pity on me for having to spend so much time alone with him that they figured they would give me a break.) Their reasoning? He would learn structure and be able to learn how to control his often wild inhibitions and channel that energy into focusing on his learning, which they feel would help him be significantly more intelligent than he already is. If they can get him to settle down, focus, and start paying attention, it will improve his speech, and earn them a medal in my book if they can accomplish that enormous feat.

They started to write his IEP. “He is not to be left unsupervised at all; he will escape and do what he wants”. Fact: they are right. “May need breaks from the classroom to release some of his overabundance of energy”. Also fact, though it’s been my experience that he has a never-ending flow of energy. My kid will be the one having his hand held in the line because he won’t walk in it, and my mother and speech pathologist have correctly identified that it is better this way as he would probably lead a group of rogue toddlers away from the group and go to the playground by themselves. I will not complain. All that matters to me is that he got into preschool, with a guaranteed and free slot through the special needs program. He will get a positive start in his education that I would never have been able to afford. The speech pathologist said that they will quickly learn my son’s difficulties with speech and change his IEP to include services. There is no negative here. The system worked, and I couldn’t be happier.

 

There is Nothing Wrong With My Son

Since last year, my family and I have been trying to maneuver around a tricky situation. Our youngest has a developmental delay. He was an early roller, an early crawler, and an early walker. Then one year rolled around, and he had only maybe a couple of words. Our pediatrician decided to recheck him a few months later and we’d go from there. And a year later, we are still on this journey.

Today knowledge is a heavily emphasized need that we have, because it’s how we succeed. It’s how we pass tests that are mandated by the states. We live in a society where competition in the education department is so heavily pushed upon our kids, and whether or not this is fair is  not what I am about to debate. This is about perceptions of children that are unfair.

There is nothing wrong with my son. Everyone felt the need to put in their 2 cents about him. And each bit of advice, albeit unintentionally so, was just as piercing as the next. I was flooded with “don’t listen to the doctors, they don’t know what they’re talking about. He’s just quiet”. I was flooded with “why does he need to be tested for Autism? He’s obviously not dumb.” It almost seemed like no one trusted that we could make an informed decision on our own.

My toddler started Early Intervention last summer. After a few months, he was still not making eye contact with anyone and still barely spoke. I second guessed my decision. “Why am I wasting an hour of my time a week while this woman just plays with my kid? Nothing is working.” It did seem hopeless. The specialist seemed to feel the same way, that this wasn’t working. She suggested to get him an additional specialist, a speech pathologist, and a neuropsych eval to see if he was Autistic.

Nervously, the evaluation came and went. There wasn’t enough to say that he was Autistic, but there was not enough to say that he wasn’t. I didn’t care. I just wanted something to help me help my son. Every week I analyze the notes the specialists take and devoted myself to the homework as if the grade was life or death. Every sound that even mimicked a word was a celebration. But then the evaluation showed something that none of the other testing did: despite everything, my son was a smart kid.

This showed soon enough. Any toy that the specialist would hand him, he would figure out quickly without needing anyone to show him how. If something was broken, he would hyperfocus on it to see if he could fix it. My son wasn’t dumb, we knew that. He just needed help without judgement. He needed someone to not analyze his deficiencies, he needed someone to help him grow his true potential. I kept him in Early Intervention because I knew they could help him in ways that I obviously couldn’t.

At 3, they age out of the Early Intervention Program. Speechwise, he is just starting to meet developmental milestones for children younger than him. At 2 1/2 with the words he does know, he can tell you colors and shapes without much thought. He can name letters with ease and can count. He can even point to numbers and tell you what they are. I can’t wait to see what he finds out when he gets more words.

Now he is readying for another set of testing. This will show us if he qualifies for programs in Preschool, which has opened up a new door of commentary. “Do we really want him in the special education programs?” “Is having him labelled as special needs so early going to scar him and give people a reason to bully him?” “What will the other kids think or the parents think?” Maybe the parents will think “those parents really love their kid to do whatever it takes to help them succeed.” Children that age don’t know what makes other kids different from them. That’s stuff we put on our kids ourselves.

The point of this is that you are a parent that needs to make decisions for your own children and what’s best for them. Sometimes kids need some extra help. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with them or that they are somehow broken. Whether or kid is Autistic or has some developmental delay, that is something you have to deal with and to hell with everyone else. You can sit in denial and pretend you can do it yourself, or you can admit that you can’t and do whatever you need to help your child. I’m lucky that my insurance covers this, but I would easily work 3 jobs if I needed to in order to help my child have a better life and I wouldn’t even bat an eye. That is what parents are supposed to do: whatever it takes.

Don’t feel so alone when your child may fall short in their development. You’re not alone. You will know what to do because like with everything else in parenting, it’s all instinct. There are more people struggling with these decisions every day than you think, and you can find so much information on the internet to help you figure out what you can do and connect with other parents also going through it. I did whatever it took, and my son is constantly flourishing.