It’s one thing to be an advocate for your child, it’s quite another to be an advocate for all children who may need early intervention services. That, however is the category in which I’d have to place the mother of Heidi, one of RMCC’s cherished clients. If there were enough words to rhyme with “referral”, I’d don’t doubt she could come up with a good cheer for parents who find themselves hesitant to seek evaluations for their children. In sharing her experience with the Richie McFarland Children’s Center, Emily says it like it is, “Any service you can get for your child is a win.” It’s music to my ears and to that of the devoted therapist that has worked with her daughter since six months of age. For many parents, however, the idea of their child needing early intervention services can be overwhelming and leave them feeling fearful of facing the stigma of not having a “typically developing” child.
After having both her son and daughter receive services from RMCC, Emily is ready and willing to break that stereotype. She gets frustrated with those who tend to “dismiss the validity of her children’s needs” and remembers one too many conversations at the park from well-intentioned strangers who assured her the delayed speech both of her children faced would right itself on its own with age. Both of Emily’s children, Colin, now 5 and Heidi, now 3 and ready to graduate from RMCC, were tongue-tied at birth, meaning their tongues were attached in a way that prevented proper speech development and significantly affected her daughter’s ability to nurse right from birth. Both kids also faced multiple ear infections as babies, leading her son to have two sets of tubes and her daughter to have gone through three sets of tubes and the removal of her adenoids before turning three. These physical issues combined to create speech delays that warranted intervention services.
Emily was first referred to RMCC by her pediatrician after her son’s nine month checkup brought concern that he was not yet rolling over. She was matched with an occupational therapist who worked with Colin on the development of his gross motor skills. When Emily described the frequency of his ear infections during one of his therapy sessions, his therapist recommended they consider the advice from his doctor to get tubes placed in his ears. Colin’s therapist helped Emily and her husband to understand that little ears filled with fluid more often than not could significantly affect their son’s hearing and could easily result in a delay in the development of his speech. After Colin had the tubes placed, Emily soon noticed a significant increase in her son’s communication. It was much the same pattern when her daughter was born, yet the level of fear and uncertainty was nearly nonexistent, as they knew from experience with their son that there was expert care available and they were not on their own in facing yet another round of tubes and therapy.
As her children’s self-proclaimed “safe haven”, Emily knows the importance of her role in protecting them from what she calls “communication frustration”. Every child deserves the ability to voice their feelings, needs, concerns and excitement and Emily takes a proactive role in doing all she can to aid the development of their speech. Her daughter’s speech and language therapist will be the first to commend Emily on her careful observations during her sessions with Heidi and the “carry over” work Emily does with Heidi between weekly therapy sessions. It’s a perfect example of the family-centered approach embedded in the mission and success of RMCC. As Emily so appropriately says, “it takes a village” to raise a child and she is grateful that RMCC has been such an important part of her family’s village.
After spending just about thirty minutes with Emily, I can’t claim to know her well, but I left our conversation quite certain of a few things. As a mom who has lived through six surgeries between her two children, it’s clear this is a mom who is willing to do whatever it takes to provide her kids with the best treatment and opportunity to learn. And this is not a mom who will allow anyone to dismiss her children’s right and ability to thrive. She is a firm believer in the benefits of early intervention, as she has seen first hand the incredible impact it has had on both her son and daughter. She may not have pom-poms to go along with her praise for RMCC, but she will be the first to speak up and tout the benefits of evaluation and intervention to any parent hesitant to reach out for support.