Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ability, Disability, and EI - My Personal Thoughts.

I am biased toward early intervention.
I teach Special Education, and I hold a birth-3 certificate alongside my regular elementary - 21 certificate.
My child has received excellent early intervention services.

So it is with total and complete bias that I present these thoughts, which are entirely my own.

I love early intervention (EI).

This blog has contained many, many love notes to our EI team.  And this is my chance, thanks to Lisa's blog hop, to spell out the reasons behind my love for EI, as well as to explain the limits I see.


Ellie has Down syndrome, resulting in an intellectual disability, gross motor delays, speech delays, and fine motor delays.  (Socially, she is more or less on target at this time, and that is the only area we don't address specifically through therapies.)

No amount of early intervention can or should rid my daughter of Down syndrome.  It's in every cell of her body and has been since before she was born.  Although I believe Ellie is more alike other kids than different, she has some significant differences.  Early intervention won't remove the differences.

I believe that early intervention has helped my daughter learn to do things (eat, speak, hopefully walk) in ways that will benefit her long term development, and has caught some of her "bad habits" that could cause later postural or health issues.  Early intervention has also helped me learn new ways to teach Ellie.

Sometimes, Ellie fusses about therapies and we joke about her strong opinions, but the truth in our situation is that our therapists know exactly how hard to push.  If they feel like Ellie has been unhappy with therapy, they show up for a "repair session" - just hanging out and repairing the relationship.  Ellie's therapists have also helped encourage me as a new mama who is raising a child with unique needs.  They tell me what I'm doing right, and give me ideas to encourage Ellie's development.

Ellie is limited to 2 hours of therapy per week, plus consults.  The biggest weeks are three hours total.  I know some families opt for me, but to me, that's the limit for a baby/toddler.  We're starting the process to determine services for Ellie next school year, and I assume she'll qualify for a Pre-K two-year old program.  Sending my toddler to school is less scary because it's a hand off from one great team to (presumably) another great team.  I imagine that for parents unfamiliar with the IEP process, EI eases the transition into school based special education.

I love EI because it works for my kid.  I think Ellie is learning skills that will help her be more successful in the classroom.  And I care about her success in the classroom a lot, because I'm a teacher. I also know full well that her classroom success won't determine her fate in life.

Early intervention cannot define my child.  More therapies can't make her more loving, more giving, more entertaining, and better able to interact with her peers.  Therapy can help her walk, talk, and conquer academic tasks, but I think Ellie's future rests on her social skills.

I want Ellie to get what she needs to be successful in school.  Early intervention is a step toward giving her what she needs.  I have every expectation that Ellie has a disability that will impact her access to general education and require special educational services/accommodations through high school.

And I'm glad that the same folks who walked me through the first 1.9 years will remain my friends for the next 19.  I hope.

Linked up here - check it out!

What has been your experience with EI?  Love it?  

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  1. Hi Megan! I am glad to have found your blog! I wasn't always necessarily thrilled with our experience with EI, but you spelled out many of the reasons that we stuck with it anyway.

  2. Great take. It's all individual and I appreciate hearing this side of things as well. I find that this whole whether to be really into EI or not fluctuates greatly. When I was pregnant with Babe (she was born October 2011) and looked into this stuff, every single blog I came across and many of the posts on Baby center we're all about getting as much and as many different therapies as possible. I'm not so much into it now and it seems that the tide has turned for a bunch of other people as well, but I can definitely see your point of view and I still do appreciate our OT who comes once a week and tells me that she can see how much I've worked with Babe (I haven't, but it's good to know our daily activities are doing no harm) and I still do try to help Babe with stuff that might affect her negatively in the future. I think I'm just disillusioned by what 'on target' sometimes means and what is expected from a person to be considered a contributing member of society.
    Sorry, just thinking out loud I guess.

  3. Glad to hear a positive take on EI. I agree with you, but I am also biased (an OT). I get really discouraged with the dialogue around this subject, but I'm not sure what to do about it. With fewer parents fighting for (or even wanting) services I'm afraid cut backs will be even easier to make. I am hopeful that these voices are the vocal minority, but I am worried that because they are so vocal, other parents will opt out without giving EI a shot. That is not to say that I don't agree with some of what the vocal minority is saying. They have some excellent concerns that need to be fleshed out. I get worried when they want to throw the baby out with the bath water. If the system is broken (and in many ways it is) let's change it not walk away from it.

    We had a great experience with our therapists and educators, and things like feeding and positioning to prevent poor motor patterns are not something the average parent can muddle through.

    Now that Carrigain is in preschool her educator and therapists are instrumental in helping her to be "better able to interact with her peers," so you may find that to be true for Ellie a little later too (or she may not need that kind of support).

    I think a dialogue needs to happen with parents and state agencies to re-think the process a little, but state agencies are perfectly happy with people who refuse services...

  4. I'm so glad you wrote this! I was feeling a little lonely on the pro-therapy side of the fence.

  5. I have mix feelings about EI. We did the whole thing from when Manolo was about 3 weeks until 3 years. I think it all depends on the therapist/professionals you get. We had to deal with a few not so good, so during that time I felt very discouraged. There are also the days when your child does not want to cooperate and to me that was a waste of time, mine and theirs. I do think it helped my son improved in many areas, I do think some therapists taught me a lot, in fact even though Manolo is getting therapies at school now, I'm considering going back to our OT for some private sessions. She's so wonderful! So there, I had a love and hate relashionship with EI! LOL!

  6. Although my experience with EI hasn't been nearly as positive as yours I do feel that the therapies that EI offers our children are beneficial. I stumbled across your blog by accident and have returned many times since for information and support. Reading your posts about therapy and EI has made me jealous but has also made me a greater advocate for my daughters needs. My biggest issue with our Early Intervention therapist is that she struggles to find the positive. Each therapy session consists of a laundry list of things that my daughter is either doing wrong or how she's not catching onto things quickly enough (which often includes a few digs at me as her "at home" therapist). However, I have seen the positive strides forward that my little girl has taken with the help of early intervention and I hope to keep plugging away for my baby's benefit.

    Thank you and Ellie for providing so many of us with such a positive example of Down syndrome and how to approach both the challenges and joys that accompany the diagnosis.


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