Years of research have shown that early experience in childhood plays a crucial part in the healthy development of the brain.
According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2008 and 2010), “…high quality early intervention services can change a child’s developmental trajectory and improve outcomes for children, families, and communities.”
Typical early intervention sessions generally last for no more than one hour according to Lauren Sharkey, a speech therapist at Kutest Kids Early Intervention.
“We directly play with the child for about 45 minutes and then take 15 minutes at the end to fill out a session note,” she says.
Early intervention sessions can revolve around four main areas:
1. Physical Therapy: A physical therapist will address developmental and gross motor challenges in infants and small children. The treatment plan focuses on enhancing gross motor skills, balance and coordination, and strength and endurance, enabling the child to participate in age-appropriate activities and self-play.In addition to the therapy, physical therapists introduce parents to resources and further reading, and help them make decisions regarding adaptive equipment, if necessary.
2. Speech Therapy: A speech therapist evaluates and treats small children with speech, language, and feeding challenges. Working closely with the family, they employ the best exercises and techniques to help improve the child’s expressive and receptive communication skills, and strengthen oral motor abilities.
The speech therapist also provides parents with the latest up to date information and studies, and when necessary, helps in obtaining assistive technology.
3. Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy hones in on the fine motor and sensory motor skills needed for activities of daily living such as dressing, hygiene, and self feeding.
An occupational therapist engages in activities with the child to encourage independent function, develop and strengthen self help skills, and provides the resources needed for playing, learning, and thriving.
4. Special Instruction: A special instructor addresses the child’s overall growth and progress, and structures appropriate learning and developmental goals. With a focus on improving play skills, behavioral issues, social interactions, cognitive development, motor skills, and language, they coordinate with the parents and other professionals to ensure that the child is benefiting from all the resources and programs available.
“A typical session usually consists of us on the floor playing, or having a snack,” says Sharkey. “We motivate the child to use their words to get what they need, or what they want from their family, their caregivers, their peers, and from us as the therapists.”
At the end of the session, the therapist will usually leave session notes with the family; to keep them involved in the process, and to give them ideas for how they can continue the work moving forward.
Benefits of Early Intervention Sessions
Early intervention provides palpable positive outcomes for children, their families, and communities as a whole. For kids, it means added self-esteem and confidence as they catch up to their peers. The greatest reported benefits are that early intervention pays significant dividends later on in life in many key areas including:
- Behavioral and emotional competence
- Educational development
- Cognition and academic accomplishment
- Child health
- Delinquency and crime
- Use of social welfare programs
- Success in the labor market
The ultimate goal of early intervention sessions is for therapists to truly collaborate with parents and caretakers to change the lives of their patients for the better, helping to make society more dynamic and productive, and enabling children, families and communities to build the foundation for a bright and sustainable future.