I will never forget that phone call. I was trying to learn a new system work was implementing when my phone began to buzz. It was my son’s daycare. That sinking feeling hit as I wondered what could be going on.
“Hello, Mrs. Bradfield?”
“Yes, this is her.”
“Ok great. We just wanted to let you know not to be alarmed when you pick up your son today. He has a few incident reports you need to fill out. He’s bitten a few kids.”
“A few kids?! What?! How many?!”
“Three unfortunately. Don’t worry, they are ok but you will need to fill out these forms.”
Something was going on. He was new to the school, in fact new to school in general as he had just turned two and never had been in a daycare before (I’m lucky enough to work from home). But this biting, it was wearing me down. Why was he doing this?! The answer came when I picked him up.
“We think your son has a speech delay. We recommend you get him tested.”
We went to a daycare that specialized in watching children that could have delays, from motor skills to social to speech, but hearing those words just hit me. Of course, I had my suspicions. Honestly, he just wasn’t talking like other kids his age. He rattled some sounds together, could say mama, dada, things like that, but was far behind what I would consider a two-year-old should be able to identify. But still, hearing the words “We think your child has a delay” is never easy. The guilt rushed over me. What had I done? Had I done something wrong in pregnancy? Had I not exposed him to enough early books or speaking tools? What had I done?
It was in this mindset I went to review what the daycare had noticed. I’ll be honest, to this day I did not love that meeting. I felt the people reviewing hadn’t spent nearly enough time to actually get an idea of where he was, and I was defensive. But they were correct in one thing; my little boy definitely had a speech delay. He needed help. With that, we began working with Nevada Early Intervention Services (NEIS).
Our journey started with a meeting at the NEIS headquarters and a meeting with my son to see exactly where he stood in his delay and to see if he was eligible to receive services. The building was wonderful, the therapist testing him fantastic. She simply played with him and asked some questions and asked him to do certain tasks. To be eligible for services, you have to have at least a 50% delay in one area they support or two 25% delays in areas they support. Plus, areas of support go far beyond speech. NEIS deals with delays in fine/gross motor skills, learning impairments, disabilities, spectrum issues, the list continues. He qualified on based on speech alone and we started working on therapies. In the back of my mind, I was wondering how much this was going to cost. Speech therapy, especially on the long-term treatment plan I was looking at, isn’t cheap. Each session can be over $100 and we were looking at weekly sessions at least. You can imagine my surprise when she told me it was free.
“Free? I don’t need to pay for anything? Do you do income verification? I likely won’t qualify.”
“No income verification. All children who qualify for services will receive them free of charge regardless of income.”
Well, that made my day. We started him on weekly therapy sessions with two fantastic speech therapists. They came to my house and worked with him in the environment he was most comfortable. They also gave me suggestions on what I needed to do to help his speech come along and give him a method of communication that didn’t involve physical reactions. My son’s biting had to do with his inability to express himself in any other way. So we gave him some words to express his opinions. “No thank you!”, “please”, “mine”. These sound so simple but my son wasn’t saying them yet, and in fact he needed more help getting those words so we went with baby signs. This really opened his vocabulary. Soon he was signing he’s hungry and he wants crackers, he’s thirsty, he’s tired. Crying over anything and everything dramatically decreased and soon those signals evolved into actual words. We dropped his visits down to every other week. Things were going amazingly well! He had another assessment on his third birthday to see if he was eligible for continued services at Child Find. This is a preschool in one of the local schools (in my case Depoali Middle School) that works with children in a classroom setting. Yet my son was improving so much I doubted he would qualify.
The test day came. It was right before his third birthday. I was anxious. I didn’t want him to need continued services. I mean receiving speech therapy was one thing but needing to go to a school environment for continued services seemed so serious. And yet, my son still needed services.
His delay, while improved, was still significant. He needed more help. I swallowed my pride, tears in my eyes, and signed him up.
Looking back, how UNBELIEVABLY STUPID I was to hope he didn’t into this preschool. The Depoali Preschool has been the best thing to happen to Sebastian’s education, ever. The bus picks him up and drops him off for school everyday which gives him such confidence and pride. And his speech is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was. We are constantly needing to up our goals. In fact, now my main fear is that he won’t qualify for another year! Through the tutelage of his teachers and speech therapist, he has reached all the goals I had initially set out for him. He is also working on things my older soon never did at this age in his more traditional preschool. Amazingly he can almost master writing his name! But the best part is his love of school. At his original daycare, every drop-off would end in tears. He hated going to “play with friends”. Now, he is so excited to go to school every morning he likes to get dressed right away and wait for the bus to come at the front door. Plus, my bank account thanks me as I no longer need to pay for the part time daycare he was receiving. Like the services of NEIS, Child Find is completely free. I feel so blessed to have my son in this amazing program!
Early Intervention is crucial for young children. Any services they can receive before school will enable them to have the confidence to do well in school. If you have any suspicions at all for your toddler or preschooler, please don’t wait. Get them tested!. The assessment is always free, and should your child qualify you will be giving them the greatest gift a parent can give their child; confidence in themselves to navigate the world around them.