How to Make an Early Intervention Referral
A good friend of mine called recently for some advice. She and her family had dinner with some friends over the weekend. Both of them have kiddos the same age. During their dinner play date, her friend confided that she had some "concerns" about her little girl. Nearing the two and a half year mark, she has yet to be able to feed herself and tends to play with food rather than eat it. Her speech skills seem a little delayed too. She really isn't speaking in sentences and doesn't initiate verbal communication. Come to think of it, she has been delayed in most of her milestones.
During their dinner, my friend noticed all of these behaviors as well as several others. She is worried and knows that the early years are a critical time in a child's development. She isn't sure if what she is seeing is really serious or is she overreacting. Should she say something to her friend and even if she does, what should she say and how should she say it so as to not offend or upset her? Although her friend has some concerns about her little one, she isn't sure she really wants to or is emotionally ready to do anything about it.
That's when she called me. She rattled off her list of concerns and wanted my opinion. Many of us have been in this situation before and will be again, so here are some suggestions:
- FIRST! Ask Questions and LISTEN—Find out if the parent has concerns and if so, what are they? Are they already planning to seek advice or help on their own?
- This Blog—You can always direct a friend to today's post, as well as one I wrote in December 2008 called Web Resources for Parents. This blog as well as other websites may be very helpful and comforting to concerned parents. If they see that they are not alone, they may be more likely to reach out for help.
- Read!—Books such as What to Expect the First Year and What to Expect the Toddler Years, as well as websites such as www.babycenter.com will help to break down what "normal" development should look like month by month, acting as a guide for parents.
- Talk to a Pediatrician—Encourage the parent to raise their concerns with their child's pediatrician or another doctor or therapist they know and trust.
- Call the Office of Early Intervention—And, when necessary, encourage parents to ask for an evaluation team to come to their home and assess their child's skills. Finding out early if a child qualifies for services can make all the difference.