My son Max has “hidden” special needs. He shows moderate delays in speech, has ADHD and has issues functioning socially. He’s very much a typical four-year-old boy, and a lot of people wouldn’t notice his delays upon initially meeting him unless they try to hold a conversation with him (and notice he struggles) or witness his obsessive compulsive behaviors, such as opening and closing doors or turning lights on and off repeatedly. This is why I have appreciated finding early childhood intervention for Max.
As a result of his speech and other developmental delays, Max is in a class that addresses other students his age with similar delays. I’m very, very thankful for the ways early childhood intervention has helped my child and love that he is a part of this wonderful classroom of bright students and loving teachers. A concern some therapists and parents have of students in this class is that the students don’t have any real “peer” role models for appropriate behavior and speech since all children are behind. So while they have an excellent teacher-to-student ratio, are they still going to be behind socially if a part of early childhood intervention?
Despite the fact that I’d say Max’s delay gap is decreasing and hopefully will be nearly non-existent in just a few more years, I still worry. I worry about other kids being mean to him (and mean to other students with delays or disabilities). I worry about him struggling in school. I worry about him forging strong friendships. I know how cruel kids can be, so I also worry about him getting teased as he gets older. I worry about him being misunderstood. We’ve already seen it happen – just a few weeks ago we were playing and he asked a child of about seven years of age what her name was about four times and she sighed dramatically and said, “You’ve already asked me that a million times! Can’t you say anything else?”
early childhood intervention experiences
The other day, I picked Max up from school. His teacher came over to greet me as usual, full of smiles and sharing with me kinds words about Max’s day as I smiled and took my sweet boy’s hand. Today she has more to tell me besides the fact that they talked about the three little pigs and went outside for recess.
“I wanted to tell you that Max does a really good job including other kids.” She paused. I was curious where she was going this.
“We have a friend in a wheelchair in our class. Every time we get into circle time, he calls her by name and helps move her into the circle with the rest of the children.”
I stood there, feeling the tears welling up behind my over-sized sunglasses. I smiled and thanked her and helped Max get into the car and buckled in for the short drive home.
As I rounded the car and stepped up into the drivers seat, those tears rolled over and down my cheeks.
“Max,” I said. “Do you have a friend in class named Harlow?”
“Yes,” he answered and began rattling off a list of all of his classmate’s names.
I stopped him short. “Well Mrs. Marshall said you always make sure to include her and pull her wheelchair up during class. That is so nice of you, Max!”
“Thank you, mama,” he said.
“I’m so proud of you, buddy,” I told him.
My three-year-old daughter was in the car and echoed what Max had done. She said, “I want to be good and nice, like Max was to his friend.”
Moments like these are what being a mom is all about. From the moment your little one makes his way screaming into the crazy world, you want nothing but the best for him. I often think of the quote, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Like any mother, I want my kids to have amazing lives. I want them to make the right decisions but know that it’s okay to fail as long as they learn from their mistakes. I want them to work hard to be successful but also know that success has a lot of definitions and countless paths that will get them to that point.
|Max having fun at his birthday
party last fall.
One other thing I have always hoped for my kids was that they would choose to always be accepting of and kind to others. We were all kids once. We know how cruel children can be to one another. I pray that my kids won’t shy away from – or even worse, make fun of — those who are a little different. Instead I hope that they choose to reach out to others and befriend them and embrace our differences as a beautiful thing. I encourage all parents to take some time to teach your child about peers with special needs.
Max’s kind act, while small in the grand scheme of things, is one thing a little boy his age can do to show love and kindness. No act of kindness is too small and none is more important than another. At home and in our daily lives, we work hard to encourage our kids to not stare at those who are not the exact same as them. We encourage them to speak to other children and introduce themselves. We explain why it’s important to share, and we hope they listen when placed in situations where sharing is appropriate.It is wonderful to hear that Max is acting on what he has learned. I don’t think his early childhood intervention class with other students who are developmentally delayed is a hindrance to him even in the slightest; I think just the opposite. He’s going to be more accepting of all different types of people because he has been around students with all levels of disabilities since he turned three years old. He is so fortunate.
I think the beauty of most young children is that they are born without the ability or knowledge of how to judge others. While I would love to take credit for why Max acts the way he does (when he’s being good anyway!), I know that many of his actions aren’t something that we’ve guided him to do. He may have seen us act in a kind way to someone, but deep down, I know how he acts reflects who he really is – a wild and crazy, rough and tough, hyper and energetic, loving and caring little boy who I get to call mine.
Have you had any experiences with early childhood intervention programs? How did it go?
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Tags: child development