Why You Shouldn’t Wait To Get Your Toddler Tested For Special Needs

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Is this really a parent’s problem though? I don’t think that we doubt that schools do everything they can to help these kids. The problem comes when we have to consider that our children might be a part of that group. It’s when we have to accept that there’s a problem. I decided to throw out the common parenting hesitations and see what these professionals had to say about mommy hang-ups.

“Kids develop differently…” I started to give the common phrase to one of the speech therapists. She cut in and said, “They do. And that’s why some of them need help.” It was so simple, her approach to this issue that feels enormous for many parents. “There’s definitely a stigma attached to special needs,” she explained. “But parents don’t realize that things as simple as speech issues can get early attention so that they don’t become a problem later. They get speech, they get language enrichment. These things make it easier for them when they do get into general education.”

That transition, from special needs classes to general education, is one that was a pretty common topic of discussion among the teachers, because it happens a lot more often than you’d think. On a rough estimate, a special needs coordinator told me that 80% of her early-identified special needs children go on to general education. I heard about one student who after just two years in special needs pre-school tested out of the program for kindergarten.

So often, we think the special needs label is a stigma that will carry kids around for the rest of their educational careers. “The truth is that early identification is so important because it helps kids move out of these programs easier. We address the problems before they manifest and help ones who aren’t quite ready for school yet prepare.” Instead of sticking kids with a label, starting these programs at 3 years old allows the kids to have a more normal school experience.

“And it’s important to point out that speech therapy and occupational therapy aren’t seen as ‘special needs’ to the other kids,” pointed out one teacher who has an integrated classroom of pre-kindergartners. “The other kids are jealous that their friends get to go have special time with an adult. It’s seen as fun, not a reason to be embarrassed. It’s one reason why it’s great to get the additional help sooner rather than later.” Young children are obviously more accepting and less judgmental, so it makes sense that younger ones wouldn’t see needing special help as a bad thing.

So what are some signs that you might want to get your child tested? “Every child is different, and we all know that,” one therapist explained to me, “But your doctor should be checking developmental markers for your kids during wellness visits. It can be as simple as talking to them about the criteria and how many of them your child is meeting.” It’s important to note that the smaller delays, the more questionable ones, might be the ones that can benefit most from early identification. These issues can hopefully be addressed and worked out before your child comes into kindergarten with problems that could put them behind.

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