“Your child is struggling in school.” As a parent, hearing these words may be difficult to digest, while stirring an array of emotions from feelings of overwhelmingness, frustration, disappointment, and even sadness, especially if this is the first time a professional has mentioned this to you. These conversations are not always easy, but the goal is to find the best ways to help your child. The good news is you do not have to do this alone! There are resources, organizations, and professionals that provide support to assist families during the developmental stages of children, a team of people ready to work alongside you.
When a child goes to preschool or elementary for the first time, it is not uncommon that professionals might start to see some of the developmental milestones not being met, which may not have been noticeable prior to a child attending school. Education professionals are often the first line of developmental communication with children, and spending time with them, in a more controlled setting, for several hours a day, things may become more prevalent and visible than at home.
Jennifer Padron, multicultural services coordinator at Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, states that it is more common than not that teachers pick up on a developmental delay before the parents. “A developmental delay is a delay in one or more of the major skills (motor, communication, cognitive, social or adaptive) compared to a typically developing child,” said Padron. “And if the child is an only child, or no other children are around, things may go unnoticed.”
However, a doctor, parent, educator, or even childcare provider may notice signs of a developmental delay, but it can still be hard to know if your child is meeting the appropriate milestones. So how do we get beyond the words, “struggling,” and “developmental delay,” to do what is best for our children?
First, we educate ourselves. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has several resources to help track your child’s milestones. These resources show you what to look for at each stage of development. Knowing what we need to look for is half the battle. The more we learn, the more we can understand how best to meet the needs of our children, especially if there is a developmental delay.
Then, we activate our team! Although it may feel overwhelming to notice a child not meeting milestones, there are several resources available and supports in place to help you navigate this journey. If you have concerns, it is always a good idea to mention them to your child’s doctor or healthcare provider. They will be able to help provide input on additional testing that might be needed.
Ask other parents or family members. Other parents with similar lived experiences, may be able to give you some insight into how they were supported or handled their child’s diagnosis. However, be mindful that all children are unique. What works for one parent’s child may not necessarily work for yours.
Use resources and supports. Tennessee Early Intervention System (TEIS) “is a statewide voluntary education program that supports young children with disabilities or developmental delays.” Anyone including parents can make a referral for early intervention services. Once a referral is made, the child will receive a developmental evaluation. Based on the results of the evaluation and eligibility, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) will be developed. The plan will include recommendations of supports and services needed to support the child in their development. Early intervention may occur in the home or community. Families work together with professionals throughout the process and there is frequent monitoring of goals and developmental milestones.
Intervention may include speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and developmental therapy. A developmental therapist is a professional that typically works in the family’s home to help create routines, equips both the child and family with skills, collaborates with other providers, and gives suggestions on how the child can continue to thrive.
Another great resource is KidCentral TN which outlines several different resources for developmental delays and explains the early intervention process more in-depth. They also provide information on several programs and features that include, basic needs, crisis services, life skills, and full family support.
And finally, you can always call Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, at 1-800-640-4636. Our information and referral specialists and multicultural services coordinators are here to help you! They can provide one-on-one service to assist you getting to the resources that you need to help your child. No matter the focus of your search, whether it be for a developmental delay, or another diagnosis, our coordinators, have been doing this so long and some even have similar experiences that they can tell you exactly where to go in Tennessee to get resources that may assist you that you didn’t even realize you needed. No diagnosis is too big or too small. Or if you prefer, you can do your own detailed search on our website at TNPathfinder.org.
Helping a child meet various milestones can be both rewarding and overwhelming but know, having a supportive team, can make all the difference in the world. Whether it is a healthcare professional, therapist, teacher, or resource organization, you do not have to do this alone! If you don’t know where to start, give us a call, we’re eager to help get you connected to resources and early intervention services that are right for you. Let us be a part of the team that helps support your family.