I probably won’t say strongly enough my thoughts on the importance of early intervention for Liam. It was a game changer, literally. I have shared with teachers who feel frustrated about parents who don’t take their recommendation to get their child tested by early intervention, about the importance giving parents time to grieve the loss of a “typically” developing child – there is something (hopes, dreams, goals, etc.) you may have to “give up” when you say, my child won’t run as fast, read as well, process as easily, or make friends as well as others kids I know.
However, that call to early intervention is life-altering. The team comes out for free (at least in PA) to assess the child, and then the parent knows what they are dealing with, in terms of needs and a plan of action. Liam started to work with three specialists right away: teacher, speech, and OT. His daycare providers loved these individuals – they were helpful and informative and, especially in the birth-3 program, extremely nurturing and kind. I later met other parents who’s child had been serviced by the same OT and we spend 15 minutes raving about Mr. Ron! People still say that we were fortunate to get Liam services so early. I wish I had started them earlier – but there I go, second guessing myself again.
At 2-1/2 years, I called the pediatrician again – “I’m still concerned.” I greatly appreciate that she said, “Ok, let’s figure this out.” She provided me with all of the information I needed to call the IU to get an early intervention team out to give Liam developmental testing.
The day the early intervention testing team came out, I was 35 weeks pregnant. They were extremely efficient, patient with my questions, and friendly. They each took turns working with Liam. They gave him breaks and did fun things with him under the goal of obtaining information. This was not an intrusive or painful process.
One thing that was pointed out during the test was how Liam used language. He was asked to complete a puzzle and was having a little trouble finishing it. He asked for help, but the therapist showed me how he was asking. People use language to communicate thoughts, feelings, needs, or wants with others. Liam was communicating a need, but not to anyone. He kept his head down, but kept saying, “Help, help. Can’t do. Help.” She shared that he was talking and naming things out loud, but he didn’t seem to realize that he should direct that language to anyone in specific.
At the end of the evaluation, the team shared how long it would take before I would get the results. One of the clinicians pulled me aside and said, “Completely off the record, I think you are looking at Aspergers here. Call CHOP’s regional autism center. It will take you nine months to get in to see a developmental pediatrician. Our report will be done by that time. Get on the list for an appointment now.”
This was a huge blessing to us – to get on the list earlier than I might have. The wait was exactly nine months. The appointment and all the services that came with it would change even more things for Liam, for the better.
I am extremely grateful to this team, this softly spoken advice, and to his early interventionists. While this may not be how every feels, I was relieved to be able to put a name to something and begin to do my own learning. This was a huge day in our lives – a day that was very, very good.