Mama Check-in: First Steps in Helping Your Child With A Developmental Delay
It's been a while since you've heard from me... I hope you all missed me because I sure missed writing. Before we dive into the post, I want to ask... how are yall doing?
This question usually gets a pretty generic answer, especially as a mom we tend to wear armor and shield how we are really feeling because there is a fear of not wanting to be viewed as complaining or not having it together. Well, I am here today to tell you that you are not complaining and it is okay to be tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, and everything in between. Please understand that you are a bomb-ass mom for admitting this to yourself. Admitting these feelings is the first step in overcoming them, sis. I had felt underwater for pretty much the first month and a half of 2021. Running to and from therapy sessions, a hybrid work schedule, school work, co-parenting struggles, and day-to-day mom tasks really had me feeling like I was a failure because I just could not get a good balance of it all.
But good news! There is always a light in the tunnel, nothing lasts forever.
So now since we checked in, we can get to the good stuff...
In my earlier post, Development Delays and Why You Shouldn't Worry I explained what a developmental delay is considered and the different types of delays. After discovering your child has a development delay, seeking therapy is usually the next step, and if your child is of school age, getting a special learning plan tailored to your child's needs is the second step. The final step would be to enroll your child in a special education pre-k program once they are of age. I will preach this to the end of time! Early intervention is the best way to help a child with a confirmed or suspected developmental delay.
First Step: Getting therapy services for your child
So this step may seem like common sense, but a lot of parents don't know (including myself at the time) what free services and/or services that your insurance will pay for. Once you suspect your child of a developmental delay, you should talk to your child's pediatrician about getting a referral for your child to be evaluated. Most of the time, your pediatrician will agree with you and refer your child to have an evaluation based on their suspected delay.
Once your child has had an evaluation done for his or her expected delay. Some facilities turn around a report with 48 business hours while others may take up to 5-7 business days. No matter how long it takes once you get the report, it is essential to follow the recommendations on the report. I chose to share my child's report with his pediatrician and therapists but you do not have to do this. I found that it helped them to understand where my son is and recommend the best services for him. After you get past the evaluation stage of the process, your child will be set up with a plan of care and most therapy centers will then submit their paperwork to the insurance company to see what they will and will not cover based on your child's diagnosis. You can find more information on different therapy options, here.
Second Step: Create an individual education plan (IEP) for your child
The thing they do not tell you about getting your little one FREE special services in school (i.e: speech, occupational and physical therapy) is that you will need an individual education plan (IEP) for your child to receive free services offered by the county. Thankfully through research, I learned this very early and I was able to get him the evaluations (i.e: paperwork) needed to get an IEP created for my son to start an early pre-k program.
This can sometimes be a very time-consuming process depending on the state and county that you live in. So please start as early as you can on this, most states allow your child to start pre-k at the age of three for children with special needs. For me, it took about three months to get through the process. To get a better understanding of what an IEP is and how it works, click here. Remember once you get an IEP developed you as the parent play a crucial role in ensuring your child is hitting their milestones.
Third Step: Enroll Child in Special Education Pre-K
The importance of getting your child in school is a crucial step in your child learning crucial social and adaptive skills. After you get through developing the IEP, most counties will let you know what free services you qualify for based on your child's needs that will be offered at school. This usually includes speech, occupational, physical, and sometimes behavioral therapy. As stated earlier getting your child enrolled in school is sometimes a long and hair-pulling process but it is all about patience and understanding the process to make it work for you. Check out the process for enrolling a child in special education pre-k in Georgia. Also, here's a list of other tools and resources that may be helpful as well for your child!
Lastly, if you are not quite sure where your child falls in reference to hitting milestones for his/her age, check out this easy-to-follow worksheet that can help you track your child's development journey.
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