Are there other moms out there who have been blessed by your state’s Early Intervention program? Google tells me this service has all kinds of names across the country: Help Me Grow, Baby Net, Birth to Three, Infants & Toddlers, Early Steps, First Connections, Babies Can’t Wait. This service in Pennsylvania has been awesome for us as foster parents. We’ve had three different “types” of therapists over the last three years—physical therapy (PT), speech therapy, and occupational therapy (OT).
(By the way, in case you’re unfamiliar—like I was—Occupational therapy, according to kidshealth.org, helps kids with various needs improve their cognitive, physical, sensory, and motor skills and enhance their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.)
What Is Early Intervention?
In our state, Early Intervention is a free service—yes, free—offered through the county that comes to your house—yes, to your house—to offer professional services to kids under age 3. As a foster mom who already drives my son to a lot of medical appointments, it’s life-changing. All you have to do is be home (and dressed).
EI Therapists Work With Your Life
They’re in your house, so the therapist might include playing with the dog to get your kid to move around. They might include looking in your snack cabinet to get them to talk. Our therapists play in our backyard, look at our flowers, and follow Lil Man up and down our stairs. Obviously, a kid will be most comfortable on his own turf. The best results we’ve gotten have all been from familiar toys and familiar spaces (and without me having to entertain anyone in a waiting room beforehand!)
EI Works With the Parent
I constantly joke to our visitors that they are really there to coach me. They aren’t trying to get their little patient to make the complicated “z” sound in a single hour. They are teaching ME as the mom how to get my kid to make the complicated “z” sound over the next two weeks. They are smart enough to recognize that an hour every week or every two weeks isn’t going to cut it—you as the parent are there 24/7. Their job is to help you do what you do (parenting) in the best way possible to help your kid get more experience in overcoming whatever their difficulty is.
We set goals, and then we actually met them! I really can’t put into words the feeling when you once made a goal of your child turning their head equally on both sides to offset NICU neck, and then you blink and you’re checking OFF a goal that says your child is putting together 3-4 word sentences. What a change!
These therapists make me a better mom. It’s idea after idea, tip after tip. On any given day, we’re sitting, eating lunch, while our therapist talks casually and offers suggestions that fit the moment.
“He might be having trouble feeling that in his mouth since it’s room temperature, maybe add something crunchy.”
“That might be easier for him with increased lung capacity; why don’t you get some feathers or some pom-poms and make a game of him blowing them across the table?”
Boom. [Side note, blowing pom-poms is the funniest game ever if you’re willing to wipe up a lot of spittle afterwards.]
Those are just two examples of a thousand suggestions that have been game-changers for us. These awesome women have helped with a wild and amazing transformation as our son has learned new skills, overcome challenges, and broken through his barriers.For more resources for learning about, and dealing with foster families, please visit our Hope 4 Hurting Kids Foster Families Help Center.