Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Children grow and develop at incredible rates between from birth to three years old, and parents have a front-row view of it all. So it bodes well for kids’ long-term literacy when caregivers use our special vantage point to monitor developmental milestones and proactively seek support when we suspect developmental delays. 

Yet, many parents don’t know that they can access federal funds for early-intervention services, even without a referral from a pediatrician. Funds are available for children experiencing needs in areas including gross and fine motor skills, speech and language, and social or emotional areas. 

That’s why I reached out to Ann Becker and Shannah Seyfert of Penfield Children’s Center, which administers Birth to Three programming in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. I asked them to explain why early intervention matters, who parents can talk to if they’re concerned about their child’s development, and what kinds of support services children can receive.

Watch the video for tips about how to tell if your child has a developmental delay and what to do if you suspect an issue. Then spread the word about early-intervention services in your neck of the woods. There are federal funds available in every state, through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part C, although there are some variations in the program specifics. 

Here’s a breakdown of key topics from my chat with Ann and Shannah:

  • Why parents should pay attention to developmental milestones issued by the CDC and other reputable organizations.
  • Red flags that parents should attend to when it comes to early-childhood development.
  • The importance of honoring your intuition as a parent, documenting your observations, following up on concerns right away, and seeking outside support and assessments when you’re worried.
  • How healthy relationships are the foundation of a child’s brain development and skills.
  • The importance of prenatal care and well-child checks at the pediatrician’s office.
  • How services are delivered through a primary coach and an extended network of specialists, such as an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, a speech therapist, an educator, or a social worker, depending on their needs.
  • How anyone—parents, physician’s offices, and child care centers—can refer a child to get early-intervention services on the county website.
  • What to expect if your child is referred for assessment, from the initial referral to an interview to an assessment to getting a family service plan if your child qualifies.
  • How children transition out of the Birth to Three program, and what kind of ongoing support is available through the public schools’ early-childhood system.

My chat with Penfield Children’s Center’s Birth to Three program was so informative and encouraging. I want all parents to see how easy it is to raise your hand and express any concerns you have about your child’s development. Your early invention can make a lifelong difference for your little one, so don’t hesitate to follow your intuition when it comes to seeking assessments and support for your child.

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