Early Intervention is a buzz phrase for this generation. It’s true: early identification and intervention have been shown to make worlds of difference in long-term outcomes for children who have disabilities impacting their communication. For one, speech and language skills develop systematically: certain skills have to be in place before other skills can develop. Like climbing a ladder, you can’t skip rungs or you get stuck. Early intervention allows for the identification of the missing rungs and then sets in place a systematic plan for building the missing rungs. In this way the child makes progress and can keep moving up the communication ladder to their best communicative potential.
Another advantage of early intervention was alluded to in my earlier Blog Post “S’more Talk”. Communication can become a positive rewarding experience or a negative experience. Children who are more competent communicators tend to get more positive reinforcement and feedback during conversational exchanges and therefore naturally seek to communicate more. Children who are more challenged in the area of communication tend to get less positive reinforcement during their communicative exchanges and therefore don’t seek to elaborate or initiate as much. Early intervention should target communication skills as well as the communication feedback cycle to facilitate it becoming an intrinsically positive and rewarding experience. One way it does this is to work with caregivers to give them the tools to help them to facilitate speech and language with their children in positive ways in everyday interactions. Parents can learn developmental hierarchies and natural cueing systems to support their children in their interactions with them and celebrate those shared experiences.
BUT, so often I work with parents who lament “Oh, If only we had done this sooner!” Well, actually their kids are now making super fast progress… Now that they are older, they have attention spans, awareness and monitoring skills they would not have had when they were younger allowing them to progress through targeted skills more quickly. It is NOT too late. In addition, because speech and language skills are like rungs on a ladder there are certain skills that are not even appropriate to work on until a child is developmentally ready and therefore SHOULD NOT be addressed until the child is a certain age.
And so, while early intervention is typically ideal, realistically your child will progress with appropriate interventions at whatever point they are provided.
“Early intervention” has rightfully earned its buzz phrase status, but “appropriate intervention” at any age is the gold standard that will yield positive outcomes in helping our children to reach their best communicative potential.