By Jill Donaldson, M.A., CCC-Speech-Language Pathologist
Coordinator, Parent Education – Infant Development Program
Rappahannock Area Community Services Board
Do you find yourself wondering about your baby’s development? Do you go online and look up developmental milestones or Google “late talkers?” Do you find yourself comparing your child to other children?
When parents first suspect that something is not quite right with their child they worry and then mention it to a spouse or other family member. The response they often get is “He’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with him.” A relative might try to be reassuring by sharing, “I didn’t talk until I was four and I turned out alright.” Some pediatricians will say “He’ll grow out of it.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a crystal ball to tell us which children would “grow out of it” and which ones need some extra help early on?
Children do achieve milestones at their own pace. Some children are more active than others. Some children are early talkers. By the time most children are in kindergarten, they have caught up with their motor skills and their ability to talk and be understood. But there are some who do not catch up and will struggle through those early years in school. Research has shown that early intervention works. The sooner a parent has information about their child’s development the sooner they will be able to make decisions about what to do.
The Parent Education – Infant Development Program (PE-ID) at the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board (RACSB) is an early intervention program of the Infant and Toddler Connection of Virginia serving children from birth through age two and their families. Services are provided in the child’s home or daycare setting with parents and/or daycare providers actively involved. Children are evaluated to determine eligibility for services. Parents are fully informed of all steps and are active participants in the evaluation and assessment process.
A child could be eligible due to a developmental delay in any area such as walking or talking, or has difficulties with feeding or sleeping, learning new skills, expressing their feelings, or adjusting to changes in routine. Babies who were born very premature or had health issues that impacted on their development typically benefit from early intervention. Parents are involved in the home visits and are shown ways to promote new skills during everyday activities and routines.
What does a parent do when family members don’t share the same concerns or agree with having a child evaluated?
1. Call and ask questions. If your child is an infant or toddler under the age of three years you can call to speak to someone at the PE-ID Program by calling 540-371-2712.
2. An evaluation is free of charge to families and is scheduled at a time that is convenient for your family.
3. Family members often worry that their child will be labeled. All information is confidential. No information is ever released to anyone without the parent’s written permission. A little intervention can prevent further delays and any possibility of future labeling.
4. Speak to your child’s pediatrician and ask about early intervention services.
5. Go online (see resources below for developmental information) to get developmental information.
When should you call?
You should make a call if your child is not demonstrating the following skills:
· Smiling, cooing, or enjoying social play by 6 months
· Rolling from back to belly by 8 months
· Bearing weight on legs and bouncing when held by parent by 8 months
· Sitting unsupported by 9 months
· Imitating simple actions (patting the table, clapping) by 12 months
· Responding to her name by 12 months
· Taking first independent steps by 15 months
· Understanding and use of pointing to communicate by 15 months
· Saying six or more words by 18 months
· Putting two words together by 24 months
You should ALWAYS call if your child:
· has difficulty with eating or drinking such as choking or gagging frequently or having difficulty with food textures;
· is having extreme tantrums or is difficult to console at any age;
· is not responding to your smile or seems to be in his own world;
· does not show an interest in a variety of toys;
· plays repetitively with the same toys or objects;
· does not vocalize or respond to sounds or your voice;
· does not show an interest in or interact with other children;
· seems to be unhappy or irritable most of the time;
· has lost skills or stops saying words; or
· when you have any doubt about your child’s development or your feelings about your child.
All parents want the best for their children. They want their children to be happy and to be able to participate in family activities and to have friends. Parents are the best teachers of their children because of the special bond of love and trust. Children learn in a safe, structured and nurturing environment from people who talk, play, and have fun with them.
The Parent Education –Infant Development Program recognizes and values those principles and has been serving families in the community for 30 years. The Rappahannock Area Community Services Board started the program in1979 to meet the growing need for services for infants and toddlers with developmental delays. Back then a handful of parents participated in the program. Today, the program serves more than 350 children and their families each year in the Fredericksburg area.
To learn more about the Parent Education-Infant Development Program, call 540-372-3561 or visit www.racab.state.va.us.
Jill Donaldson, M.A., CCC-Speech-Language Pathologist, has served as the Coordinator for the Parent Education – Infant Development Program at the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board for the past 13 years where she provides direct services to families and oversees the early intervention staff of physical, occupational, speech therapists and special educators. She has worked with infants and toddlers with developmental delays for nearly 30 years. Ms. Donaldson was awarded the Leadership Award by the Infant Toddler Connection of Virginia in 2007.