The general consensus now is that children with any sort of learning disability or special needs generally benefit from services as early as possible. But, there’s a lot of variation among "neuro-typical" kids, so it’s not always easy to tell when you should worry. Under federal law, all states are required to identify and evaluate kids who might be in need of special education or early intervention services. But some areas do it better than others.
Two bloggers that I read are going through this process right now:
- Laura at 11d is writing about her frustration with the process of qualifying for public services in New Jersey.
- TinyCoconut is writing about her ambivalence about getting her son assessed.
We went through the process here in Virginia with our older son, D, who had a speech delay, and had a generally good experience. Yes, there were an awful lot of meetings — which would have been more than a nuisance if we were both working in inflexible jobs. But we always felt like the school staff were on our side, and that all the paperwork was because of the law. (I think we got 6 copies of the 10 page summary of parents’ rights under IDEA.)
D got speech therapy for a year, and progressed so fast that he no longer qualified when reassessed. I’m still not sure how much credit to give to the therapy, and how much he was just on his own schedule, but he enjoyed the sessions, so I don’t worry about it. It boggles my mind to listen to our little chatterbox and remember that close to his 3rd birthday, he spoke in monosyllables and grunts.
That said, I actually think that D has low-level sensory integration issues, which didn’t show up on his evaluation. A lot of The Out of Sync Child sounded familiar to me. He used to refuse to walk on grass, and still hates sand. He refuses to fingerpaint. He’s a ludicrously picky eater, and I think it’s driven more by texture than taste. (Who ever heard of a 4-year-old who wouldn’t eat plain spaghetti?) And, at the same time, he will swing longer than any other kid on the playground, and adores to be spun around in circles until I’m ready to puke.
But it doesn’t affect his life or ours in any significant way (as long as we don’t try to go on a beach vacation), so I’m not going to push for a diagnosis. We keep encouraging him to push his limits, and give him lots of opportunity to run and swing and spin, and I’m not convinced that an OT could do anything more.