A baby’s birth is a time of excitement, hope and sometimes a little apprehension. Recent scientific studies have increased our understanding about how infants and toddlers develop. The early years are a foundation for later learning and although babies develop at their own pace, most follow a predictable path learning to walk, talk and gain new skills in expected ways. It’s not uncommon for parents or family members to become concerned when their adorable baby or growing toddler doesn’t seem to be developing according to the normal”schedule” of milestones. “He hasn’t rolled over yet.” “Her cousin was crawling at this age!” “Shouldn’t he be saying a few words by now?” What’s considered normal development varies considerably and we know that children don’t all accomplish skills at the same pace. However, it’s when skills don’t emerge as expected, within the broad schedule, that parents and caregivers may become concerned. For infants and toddlers with a developmental concern or delay, early intervention can make a world of difference. Early screening and intervention provides services and supports to promote each child’s optimal development, and also supports parents in meeting their child’s needs.
A child’s brain development is strengthened by positive early experiences, especially stable relationships with caring and responsive adults, safe and supportive environments, and appropriate nutrition. Early social/emotional development and physical health provide the foundation upon which cognitive and language skills develop. High quality early intervention experiences can change a child’s developmental trajectory and improve outcomes for children, their families and communities. Early intervention is likely to be more effective and less costly when it is provided earlier in life rather than later.
Families, most particularly parents, are the most important participants in early intervention. Your contributions are invaluable:
The resources in the link below have been identified because they address the many dimensions of parent involvement, including the parents’ right to be involved in decision making regarding their child and the early intervention services he or she receives. There are also resources to help early intervention systems promote the active involvement of families at either the organizational or individual levels.
The following video from the Kennedy Krieger Institute, in Baltimore, features three children who show early signs of autism spectrum disorder playing with toys and interacting and communicating with others. It compares the footage on each of these children to that of typical children in the same situations. “It helps parents to articulate to their pediatrician any behaviors that concern them,” says Rebecca Landa, Ph.D., director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders.