I haven’t talked much about our experience with First Steps, and enough people have been curious to know more that I thought I’d address a few questions and hopefully help any parent remotely concerned with developmental delay.
What is First Steps?
It’s a statewide organization for children three and under who need a little assistance meeting certain milestones. They call it “early intervention.” This can be verbal, physical or occupational therapy, and it can range all over the map. For instance, my nephew has spina bifida and has PT sessions once a week to help build muscle mass in his legs and back, and I know some kids that have had speech therapy because of a lisp or hearing issue.
Why do you use First Steps? (Is anything wrong with Wes?)
There is nothing “wrong” with Wes. Because he is cautious by nature, he needs a lot of encouragement to repeat behavior and learn new skills – specifically gross motor skills (walking, climbing, running, etc). He is slightly delayed in comparison to other kids his age in these areas, but it is not uncommon, and he is catching up quickly. His fine motor and verbal skills are perfect.
What made you concerned enough to have Wes evaluated?
The fact he wasn’t rolling over by the age of 9 months. He was nearly 10 months old before he finally rolled over consistently. He had always preferred to be on his back and hated tummy time from an early start. Nothing could calm him. He didn’t move or roll to his side at night and started getting a flat spot on the back of his head. Everyone told me that boys were slower than girls, and that “his time would come when he was ready,” but I kept waiting and waiting for him to show more interest in toys just out of his reach and hold his balance just a little better. I made the call because my gut had been screaming at me long enough.
What was the evaluation process?
Once I made the initial call, we had a brief phone interview to address concerns. From there, we had a home visit and that led into paperwork, representative assignments and additional meetings. It sounds like a lot of preregistration efforts, and it did take about a month to start therapy sessions from my initial call, but their process is streamlined to cater to each child’s needs.
What do you do in therapy sessions?
Wesley’s case is mild and we only have sessions twice a month. It’s basically just an hour of playtime with games and toys that target particular muscle patterns and movements. He’ll need to step around a barrier or walk across the room to retrieve an enticing toy. What I like best are the suggestions given to us on what we can do to help encourage repeated behavior and movements.
How long will you continue and have you seen any progress?
Yes, I do believe his sessions have helped strengthen his muscle tone and confidence. It’s true that he would have likely learned to walk on his own eventually, but for my peace of mind, I am glad that he has been guided to learn properly and not develop bad habits or compensate. I imagine he will remain in First Steps for a few more months as he continues to improve his balance, but I’m pleased to say that we have already met all of our original goals!
Why are you sharing this information?
I’m a new mom. I know what it feels like to judge your kid against other kids who seem smarter or quicker to learn. I know what it feels like to worry about every milestone. Most importantly, I understand how other parents try to assure you or offer advice, and you just can’t shake this feeling that something is off. Mothers have this weird, innate sense, but sometimes they don’t listen to themselves; they listen to others who, yes, might have experience, but every child is different. If anyone reading this has the slightest feeling that a child is having some difficulty, I encourage you to call First Steps. Just talk about your concerns and they’ll take it from there.
Peace of mind does wonders to improve your confidence as a parent. I know that I’m helping prevent any complications down the road. And it allows me to be a positive cheerleader for my son.
The following are some quick resources. It’s pretty easy to find your area’s local First Steps organization. Even if you live outside the state of Indiana, chances are your state also has a similar program.
Indiana First Steps – www.in.gov/fssa/ddrs/4655.htm
Central Indiana First Steps – cibaby.com
Tags: First Steps, physical therapy, Wes
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