We just finished up our parent teacher conferences. I survived and it turns out my children weren’t lying about behaving themselves at school. Win! As I left one of the conferences, I thought about how differently that particular conference could have gone if we hadn’t received some early intervention for my son’s issues. I thought about how hard it is to know what’s “normal” or typical and how intimidating it can be to seek help for your kid. So, I felt inclined to babble about the importance and value of early intervention for kiddos and give a few – hopefully helpful – tips. So here goes!
Five years ago I would have had dire, somewhat hilarious, predictions for my son’s school experience, focusing mostly on military school. Things didn’t look good. At one year old, he was already very physically aggressive and angry. A lot. No matter the emotion, it was an intense emotion. Once angry, he wasn’t able to calm himself. He had this crazy-high tolerance for pain. He broke his leg and walked on it for two days. We thought at first his shoes were too tight because he was just limping a little. We still aren’t positive when the break happened because he never cried. He was extreme, stubborn, and exhausting.
I wanted to seek help for him, but I didn’t know where to start or what exactly was going on with him. I had people telling me “He’s just a boy.” or “He’s just trying to assert himself because he’s the youngest.” or “You should be more (fill in the blank).” I also got my share of nasty looks and unsolicited opinions on child-rearing as I carried a screaming, squirming, hitting child out of the grocery store, leaving half a cart of groceries behind me. And they didn’t even see the worst of it.
So which was it? Was he just a boy or was I failing at parenting him? (Those appeared to be the only two options based on unsolicited feedback. I didn’t buy that this was just “boy” behavior. I had other boys who were not whirling tornados of anger. So was I parenting wrong? This one was tricky. Moms all know how sensitive we can be to other people’s opinions on our child rearing. When you’re at a loss on what to do, it’s easy to start believing the worst of yourself. But, eventually, I decided that the people blaming his behavior on my parenting incompetence were idiots. Nosy, non-helpful, critical, opinionated idiots. That helped. Honestly. It allowed me to let the idiots think what they want while I got to work on helping my kid. If someone is not encouraging or empathetic when they offer parenting “advice,” give yourself permission to deem them an idiot and ignore them.
Here are a few tips from my time navigating early intervention. I hope they’re helpful. Your child’s issue may be different, but I think the tips can still apply.
- Gather Information
- Ignore Idiots
- Speak with Professionals
- Be Persistent
- Find Support
- Invest the Time
- Advocate, Advocate, Advocate
I read every parenting book I could find. I read the theories and the step-by-step guides. I googled and asked around in mom-circles. I picked up a copy of The Out of Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz. I can’t remember where I heard about this book, but it was the start of me learning about Sensory Processing Disorder. Piece by piece, we were putting the puzzle together. I documented my son’s behaviors and looked for patterns. (Gather Information) I knew we needed to get evaluated by an Occupational Therapist (Speak with Professionals), but getting that evaluation turned out to be more difficult than I expected. I needed a doctor’s referral. I met with one of the pediatricians in our doctor’s practice with a list of concerns and all my documentation. He dismissed me. Flat-out dismissed me. This, obviously, was disheartening. I had asked for resources, but he treated me as if I were looking for a label or diagnosis. I’m sure they see a bit of that, but I wasn’t interested in labeling my kid at age 4. I was interested in helping him. So I left the practice we had been at for eleven years and sought out a new doctor. (Be Persistent and Ignore Idiots)