Our Experience With Early Intervention

I’ve partnered with Fidelity & MEFA for this post in support of the U.Fund Dreams Tour. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting CNC! 

At the beginning of April, a year after working with a Speech-Language Pathologist on a regular basis, Quinn graduated Early Intervention (EI) with flying colors. The little guy made incredible progress in a short amount of time, and we couldn’t be happier with and more appreciative of the free services available to us here in Massachusetts. I’ll share more details of our experience, but, first, let’s rewind to how and why we decided to look into EI in the first place.

When Quinn was 18 months old, he was diagnosed with his 10th ear infection. The poor kid had one ear infection after the next. Basically, as soon as he got better (and took a round of antibiotics), he’d get another one. He also had sleep apnea (heaving breathing and snoring, often associated with pauses and gasps) and trouble sleeping at times. Quinn’s pediatrician eventually (after some persistence on our part) referred us to a specialist (Ear, Nose & Throat doctor) at Children’s Hospital. This doctor suggested that Quinn have a Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy, and the surgery made a huge difference in his overall health. He hasn’t had a single ear infection since, sleeps so much better, and is simply a happier kid!

While Quinn was feeling much better after his surgery, he still wasn’t talking all that much. At 22 months, he maybe had 6-8 words that he used regularly, and he was easily frustrated when he couldn’t communicate with us.

Quinn’s tantrums were epic and lasted pretty much all day long. Some days, he’d have one tantrum after the next without much of a break in between. We asked family and friends for advice. Some of them told us to ignore his tantrums, which, whoa, did not work for Qman. The one time we tried this tactic, he tantrumed for an hour before we decided to intervene. Mal and I felt awful. We also felt really alone and helpless during this time. Everyone in our immediate circle had happy, easygoing kids and just couldn’t relate to our struggles. We knew our child was unhappy, but we didn’t know what to do about it.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before a friend at CrossFit mentioned Early Intervention to me. Her daughter went through something similar, so she knew exactly what we were going through. As soon as I got home, I immediately Googled Early Intervention to see what it was all about. I learned that it was a statewide service available to families of children between birth and three years of age, and they were totally free. In fact, EI makes it really easy for families to get the help that they need. The initial assessment and meetings (if your child qualifies for services) are all done in-home and the process to set everything up was simple and straight-forward. (I made a single phone call to schedule the assessment.) We really didn’t have anything to lose and we knew we needed to support Qman’s language acquisition and development since this foundation would definitely impact his future learning.

Image result for carrotsncake quinn books

Education is really important to both Mal and me (he’s a teacher and my Master’s degree is in higher education administration), and the last thing we wanted was for Quinn to get frustrated with his communication skills and learning process. It’s so important to us that Quinn is able to utilize all of the resources needed to help him excel – now and in the future. Even though college is still many years away, it’s never too early to foster his excitement for learning.

I’m excited to partner once again with Fidelity & MEFA in support of the U.Fund Dreams Tour to continue furthering our family’s knowledge about the steps we need to take today in order to plan for Quinn’s future. We have a few investment/savings accounts already set up for Qman and contribute to them on a regular basis. I know that we have plenty of time (many years!!) to save, but our little guy turns 3 years old in just a few weeks – time is flying! Additionally, our financial representative has been instrumental in developing our finance goals. Fidelity representatives will be available to answer questions for parents at events during the U.Fund Dreams Tour, and I can’t say enough wonderful things about this program. It really does help you learn more about the resources and services available to you when planning for college and saving for your little one’s future. As parents, Mal and I are so appreciative that we were made aware of (free) programs like this one and Early Intervention. 

Once I contacted our local Early Intervention office, things moved fairly quickly. The next week, we had Quinn’s initial assessment at our home, which was essentially four EI professionals playing with him while evaluating him. They used lots of toys and tasks to create his developmental profile, which focused on five main areas: Social Emotional/Personal Social/Interaction, Cognition, Motor Development, Adaptive/Self Care, and Communication. Quinn earned average scores in most areas, but scored quite low in Communication, which meant he qualified for a year of EI services.

After the initial testing was complete, we were matched with a Speech-Language Pathologist, who came to our house at a scheduled time once per week to work with Qman on his communication skills. She would often utilize toys to encourage words. She brought a big bag of them with her, and Quinn was always excited to see what was inside. For instance, she’d place toys “above” and “below” and “in” and “out” of a car garage and then ask Quinn to repeat her or ask him their position. We also incorporated his own toys into our sessions and even played outside a few times. The simplest toys (even from the Dollar Spot at Target) often made for the best learning opportunities (i.e. bubbles, plastic eggs, light-up bracelets, wind-up cars). We also spent quite a bit of time working on ways to encourage Quinn to follow directions and respond to requests. This was actually something he was not able to do at his initial assessment. A year later, he responds and follows multiple requests at once, which just goes to show you how far he’s come.

Today, on the language-front, Quinn is talking up a storm! He’s using more and more words every day and constantly surprises us with new ones. He mostly speaks in 3-4 word phrases, but often breaks out full sentences (with all sorts of interesting and funny thoughts)! Qman actually talks so much nowadays, it’s not unusual for him to chat the entire way to and from school. He’s turned into quite the Chatty Cathy! We’re so glad that he’s made such great strides through EI and, hopefully, it has set up Quinn for a lifetime of learning through college and beyond.

Early Intervention has truly been a blessing for our family. Quinn is such a happy and engaged kid nowadays. He’s even come out of his shell quite a bit and will often walk up to complete strangers– both young and old– to show them one of his toys or say something to them. It’s amazing to see how far our little guy has come since this time last year. He’s totally done a 180 and we couldn’t be more thankful to Early Intervention, their services, and wonderful professionals on staff.

26 Comments

  1. Parenting styles are so unique to each family that’s it’s amazing how one thing works so well for one person, and awful for the next! Early intervention sounds like such a blessing, looking more into it. Thank you for the intro to id!

  2. Our son was also in Early Intervention, it’s made a world of difference!!! We’ve chose to continue his services with the public school system and I have to say I thought EL was great the school is 1,000 times better and so much fun!!! He loves going and has built such a great relationship with his teacher.

    Our guy had the same ear infection issues and had an articulation issue. For C words he would say sh so CUP would be SHUP.

    If you have an option to move Q-man into the school system when he turns 3 you’d be really happy I’m sure!

  3. Thank you for this post. I am a pediatric SLP who has worked a lot in Early Intervention. EI is so critical and largely underutilized in my opinion. Any parent who has even the slightest doubt about their child’s development should Google early intervention in their state. (It can be tricky to find only because every state goes about providing services differently.) The goal of EI is to get kiddos the help they need now so they are set up for success when they get to kindergarten and beyond. Thanks again for being such an amazing advocate for your son!!

  4. I love and support everything about this post! I’m so happy for your family that Quinn is healthier post-surgery and has made all these wonderful strides with EI (it’s VERY common here in Los Angeles, I know so many children under the age of 3 who have speech-related intervention and it helps all of them). And I love that you are promoting the importance of financially planning for your kids’ future, I am 4 days overdue with my 4th baby and we have 529 plans set up for all of them (well not the 4th just yet) and of course put money in our 401k with all our paychecks. SO IMPORTANT and thank you for shining light on these “unglamorous” aspects of life on your healthy living blog. Financial health is health too!

  5. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your experience with EI. This post could not have come at a better time for me. My 15 month-old was referred to EI by his pediatrician and has his evaluation scheduled for next week and I’ve been really anxious about it. It’s so hard not to compare your kid’s development to other kids’ and it’s been hard for me to see much younger babies do things that he can’t do yet. After reading about your experience I’m really optimistic that EI will help him catch up. You have no idea how much I needed this!

  6. I’m so happy this program worked so well for your family! Go Massachusetts for having a free service like this!

  7. This was such a great post! I am a registered behavior technician (I work with kids with Autism) and I love the SLP’s my clients get to see every week. I never realized just how important that early communication can be until I started working with kids who either have very low language skills or are completely non-verbal. I’d throw a tantrum too if I couldn’t express what I wanted or needed! I’m so glad you guys got Quinn the help he needed and that he excelled in his services. Also, super awesome that the service is free in MA! No child deserves to be without necessary learning skills. Happy for Quinn and you guys!

  8. I’m so glad y’all had a great experience with this and Q-man is doing so much better. Mom’s always know what’s best and it sounds like you knew not to accept his tantrums and find a solution!

  9. Congratulations to Q-man and so happy it’s been easier for your whole family. As a MA native, it’s good to know we have EI services for free! So happy you were able to find a solution right for Quinn and your family.

  10. Thanks for sharing this! It’s heartwarming to hear about Quinn’s success. He is just precious and is lucky to have some caring parents.

  11. It seems so scary to have something like that happen to you and have no idea why it’s going on! I don’t have kids yet so I appreciate you writing about this so someday when I do I can help myself or a friend!!

  12. I’m an SLP and have worked in EI for the majority of my career. I LOVE hearing success stories and am so happy it worked out for your family. So much of EI includes parent involvement so kudos to you and your husband for being such great advocates and present parents.

  13. Thats so awesome what all the EI services did for Quinn. I live in MA too and know quite a few friends whose kids have had their services and its been great. I almost want my 18 month old to be evaluated even though I don’t really think he’d qualify but just in case (I mean what’s the loss?). I feel so bad you and Mal were struggling with an unhappy toddler and felt alone – I totally know how that feels since my son was basically a nightmare for the first year of his life with colic, reflux, etc. Its SO hard! You are a great mama!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing! We are experiencing an almost identical situation with our little guy! We felt pretty alone with the crazy cranky toddler and had to work hard to find the best way to advocate for his needs. We had the t &a done and are finally starting the speech therapy. It’s so amazing to hear what a difference it made for Q-‘man and your family 🙂

  15. THANK YOU for posting about EI. As a director in an early childhood (Birth-Age 3) center, we are always trying to normalize Early Intervention for our families. It can make such a gigantic difference for families but it seems like there is a stigma associated with getting a referral. I’m going to share this with families at our center to show them what a positive impact EI can have on a family.

    Thanks again!

  16. Thank you for sharing this experience! I am going through the process of seeing if my daughter qualifies for EI. I really hope she does! I’m glad your process seemed pretty easy. Ours is kind of a nightmare. SO much paperwork and my initial visit (WITHOUT my daughter) is well over a month way (the earliest they could see me!) They also require all sorts of financial information (my tax returns?!) and a complete medical history. Just seems like a lot of loopholes, but I’m hoping it’s all well worth it! Did they give you tips for what to do with Quinn at home outside of therapy? It seems like he’s made such good progress! Do you do specific stuff with him they recommend? Thanks again for sharing. I’m so glad he’s doing well. Kids are so resilient and responsive…. props to you guys for intervening early! It’s so easy for parents to have a blind eye and not see a problem with their “perfect” child. There’s nothing wrong with reaching out or help!

    1. Oh my gosh, that seems like a lot of hoops to jump through! Ughhhh. I hope it all works out in the end. We shared our health insurance information, but none of that other stuff.

      Yep, especially at the start of his services, we often had “homework” to do between appointments. It was a lot of the same stuff that we’d do during his appointments, so we’d just reinforce them and make them part of our home life. A lot of it was based around play! 🙂 I actually wrote about a few things we did with him in this post (i.e. rough and tumble play, establishing routines and sticking to them): http://carrotsncake.com/2016/07/5-ways-to-encourage-toddler-conversation-at-mealtime.html. If you have specific questions about EI or anything that was involved, just let me know! 🙂

  17. Thank you so much for shedding light on EI and how wonderful it is! While I am now a school psychologist in an elementary school in NY, 4 years ago I was on an EI/CPSE evaluation team doing assessments! So many parents didn’t know what these services were, or even that they were available.. and many were scared! I’m so glad that you had such a positive experience, and that you were willing to share your journey!!

    1. It seems so overwhelming at first, but it really wasn’t for us. I think the first step is just getting started with the process.

  18. Hello There,

    I am a father of a 10 month old baby girl.

    We take her to YMCA day care.

    I was APPALLED that the staff there suggested early intervention because she hasn’t crawled yet.

    #1) YMCA staff ARE NOT qualified medical doctors with degrees from major, accredited med schools, so their opinion is crap.

    #2) It was a MAJOR overreach for the YMCA worker to suggest to my wife that we do early intervention. See #1. She has no training/authority to make the assessment in the first place. A police officer sees mentally ill people all day in his job, but he cannot accurately diagnose anyone.

    #3) The YMCA ladies worked on my wife without consulting me. We pay them $18,000 per year for day care and that’s what we get? No. No. No. Wrong. Ridiculous. In what world do they think they are doing the right thing?

    Bottom Line: this society has too many people who meddle in other people’s business. My job as a father is to protect my family. The LAST person I want commenting on my daughter is a YMCA worker getting paid $12 an hour to clean diapers and rock kids to sleep.

    The opinion I want is my kid’s pediatrician who I have known since I was 13. He went to Yale.

    I called to cancel our first appointment this morning and the admin asked me if I knew the name of the case worker assigned.

    I did not.

    I asked her if I gave my name and address, could she find me in her computer system.

    She says, and I quote: “Oh, honey, we don’t have all that fancy computer stuff?”

    So, you don’t have a computer that can track names of your clients, but you want to send some unknown person to my home to talk about my child’s physical well being?

    I was a teacher from 2001-2012. I saw all these programs where they poke and prod at kids, jam medicine down their throats and manipulate parents using fear tactics grow into the disgusting, absurd over-reach that is has become.

    My advice to all parents: do not let one single day care worker tell you anything. They have no clue what they are doing and their job is to watch the kids and make sure they are fed/play a little bit/and sleep.

    Their job is NOT to provide medical advice. In fact, I wonder if what this clueless worker did was completely illegal. I am going to call one of my fancy lawyer friends from grad school who bill out at $500 an hour and find out the truth.

    I think you can tell by my tone that I am livid. We have one more year left in day care, and then our private school will take her in. The price drops by $12000 per year (Hello, Bahamas) and we will be dealing with qualified educators, who, in the state of Massachusetts, are required by law to have at least a Master’s Degree in their field of study.

    What an absolute joke this whole system is. The idiots who run it did not meet with much resistance from the last generation of parents who had kids in school from say 1995 to 2015.

    My generation of parents contains plenty of people who are not going to put up with being told how to parent by some anonymous stranger with a spreadsheet in hand and no medical training.

    It is perfectly within our rights to deny these people access to our children and our homes and suffer zero stigma of being a “bad parent”. I could care less about the opinions of the myriad of officials. I am my daughter’s father. My wife is her mother. We both have gainful employment, graduate degrees, and are homeowners.

    We don’t need help figuring anything out. We can do it on our own.

    And that’s the end of my speech. I thank you.

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