The purpose of Early Intervention (EI) is to teach us how to give our little ones the extra support they may need to develop effective motor planning and skills.
EI starts off with the assignment of an EI service coordinator and an initial evaluation to figure out what therapeutical services will be beneficial for your child. During the evaluation you will be asked what things are important to you and your family concerning your child. Based on this evaluation and your input, a team of therapists is pulled together to help you and your child reach the goals you have set out.
The goals are written up for a six month period in a document called an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). The IFSP is a living document that gets updated every six months (and sometimes sooner depending on any special circumstances) to reflect your families on-going needs and goals.
It is important to know three things about EI therapists... first of all, they work for you and your child, and you get to decide if the relationship is working out. If you are uncomfortable with a therapist for any reason at all, you can ask your EI service coordinator to switch the provider. Second, not all EI therapists have experience working with children with Down syndrome. And third, there are several concentrations within specific therapy fields. For example, some occupational therapists may have a strong background in sensory, while others may have more experience with self-care skills such as feeding and dressing.
When you are determining who will be working with your child, you should make sure the provider has experience with children with Down syndrome, and a level of expertise in the areas that are specific to your goals. In other words, not any old therapist will do.
Almost all infants with Down syndrome can benefit from working with a physical therapist (PT) and a speech and language pathologist (SLP) with a background in newborn feeding and oral motor skill development. Some infants may benefit from spending time with an occupational therapist (OT) who can provide a sensory program that includes deep pressure and brushing. Between 8 to 10 months of age, you probably should start pushing for a special instruction teacher. This educator will use play therapy to begin teaching your baby sign language, concepts such as in/out and up/down, as well as choice-making and other cognitive skills.
When EI is working right, you will find that you have a team of encouraging therapists who are:
—showing you at a detailed level all of the amazing developments your baby is achieving.
—training your child’s neurological pathways in effective motor activity and motor planning.
—teaching you how you can incorporate basic skill development into your baby’s everyday routines.
—teaching you how to provide your child with motor training, and sensory and cognitive experiences and that will help him develop constructive life skills.
EI is not about pushing your baby to the next big milestone, it is not about comparing your child to others, and it is not about making you feel inadequate as a parent. If you are experiencing those things, it may be time to consider some changes to your child’s team.
When did you start EI and what services did you start off with? What have been the pros and cons of EI for your family?