We were told not to compare, that each child is an individual – and that has been so true with our two beautiful twin girls. One is adventurous and speaks her mind, the other is hesitant and mischievous. When one of our little ones started walking before their first birthday we were excited and proud and confident the other would quickly follow suit. But months passed and she hadn’t even attempted to stand on her own. Don’t compare, we told ourselves. She will get up and walk one day, not to worry. But she didn’t – and worry set in.
At their 15 month check-up, our pediatrician reinforced that milestones have a wide range and that some children are simply stubborn and learn on their own timeline. After our daughter’s exam; however, our pediatrician suggested we look into our state’s early intervention program.
Early intervention? Is my child going to be okay? She is going to walk one day, right? Questions flooded my mind. No parent wants to see her child suffer, but we had tried everything we knew to encourage our little one to walk and nothing was working.
I wish I knew then, what I know now. Early intervention is a wonderful program that each state has in place to empower children and make adjustments while they are young, in order to prevent a host of potential medical issues down the road. While I always advocate that you talk to your child’s medical provider before you Google anything or decide what’s best for your family, here are the benefits we have seen by participating in our state’s early intervention program.
What Is Early Intervention?
First, early intervention programs are free up until the age of 3. This is a huge blessing. As a parent of multiples, we all know how quickly diapers, formula and groceries can add up. Having one less expense to consider can help any budget breathe easier.
Second, early intervention covers occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy. When your pediatrician writes the recommendation for services, you go to an office where they examine your child and score them on a variety of activities. The state wants to make sure that they are being treated according to need, so even if your child doesn’t have a speech delay, they will likely be tested just to rule it out.
In the case of our daughter, we went in assuming she only needed physical therapy, but, as a result of her assessment, it was also recommended she receive occupational therapy. Whatever the assessment says, do not let the score impact you. You are an amazing parent and I don’t care if you are speaking two languages at home and are an early childhood expert, each child is different and test results merely help medical professionals make an accurate treatment plan. They do not reflect your ability to parent. (I’m writing this for myself because it was VERY easy to think I had failed my child after reading her test results.)
If it is recommended that your child receive services, you’ll be assigned an early intervention therapist who visits your home, in addition to whatever medical services are assigned. (If your child is on the border and the state decides against early intervention- you can always appeal and try again if you don’t see any progress in the following months.)
I don’t know what kind of mom I am. A helicopter mom? A carefree mom? A hands on mom? Definitely not a Pinterest mom. I’m just trying to survive and raise kind humans. (Although we are approaching the terrible 2’s and that goal seems to be harder than I thought it would be…) I read all the books before the twins were born and then promptly forgot everything as soon as they entered the world. But living in the age of social media, it is easy to compare and then wonder if I’m doing it all wrong.
Early intervention has taught our family to rethink milestones. Some kids are going to hit a home run every time, and others are exploring the world on their own timeline and we just need to learn to be patient. Modern day parenting has been maddening for me, as I see one child overachieve and the other struggle to walk. Both are beautiful, unique, intelligent little people with so much to offer, but I was trying to rush one when she wasn’t ready yet. Through the support of our pediatrician and therapists, I have learned to slow down and celebrate her progress, not perfection.
Structure and Support
I’m not an expert in the medical field or early childhood development. Heck, I even had to read blogs on how to make organic baby food because that domestic gene missed me in utero. One of the biggest benefits I have received from early intervention, is the support and structure that our early interventionist, OT and PT bring to our home each week.
Recommendations on what toys to be using, when to potty train, how to encourage them to try new things have transformed our day to day. No longer do I feel like I’m winging it. (Well, I still feel like that in general as a parent, but when it comes to structured play I have a host of ideas I can draw from thanks to all the experts.)
Am I perfect at their recommendations? No. Some days it’s just easier to stay in pjs all day, leave the blocks on floor and eat cereal for dinner. But, I also have days where I know what exercises will help them, how to introduce new foods and what games to play that will propel them toward the next milestone.
Early intervention and all the various medical appointments and assessments can seem insurmountable at first. But, as you establish a relationship with your child’s team of therapists, you’ll be surrounded by some of the best cheerleaders who truly care about your child’s success. Yes, it is one more thing to do in the day, but you have access to experts in their field at no additional charge; thus, eliminating your need to worry and stay up all night Googling worst case scenarios.
If you’re worried about the other twin not receiving as much attention, have no fear- they love to join in and help. The day our daughter took her first independent steps, her sister was by her side cheering the whole way. It was hands down one of my favorite moments of being a twin mom.
Any medical diagnosis or treatment plan can be daunting, but if you are concerned about one or all of your little ones, and early intervention is an option – do not hesitate to begin the process. Thanks to our team of therapists, our little one is walking. Every day she is making progress as her strength increases and her gait improves. We are grateful for early intervention and how it has empowered our girls.
Stefani Zimmerman Drake is a wife, twin mom and lover of rescue dogs. As a strategic communications consultant who runs her own business in Charleston, South Carolina, Stefani and her husband spend their time capturing all the sweet moments of their girls, while always dreaming about their next big adventure. You can follow their adventures online or via Instagram stories.