I have been writing a lot about education and what we can do for our older children who have an IEP (individualized education plan); but, what about our younger citizens. I am talking about the children who have an IFSP. Do you know what that is? It is a document that is less well known to those in the education world – at least i think that is the case. I am talking about an IFSP (individualized family service plan). It is somewhat different. An IFSP is issued to infants and toddlers from ages from zero to thirty six months. What age is zero? Some readers may not know that this refers to a child under one month of age. Some people have asked me and readers may not realize what can be done for children at this age. the answer is “a lot”.
The reason that we can do a great deal to help children in this “window” is because there is a great deal of plasticity in the brain at this age. That means that the brain is in the process of growing quite rapidly in these early years. Those of us who work with children in this age group are working towards helping create connections in different parts of the brain. It necessitates that we work with the family. That is where the “family service plan” comes into play. The involvement of the whole family is imperative towards any type of improvement. These are really young children. If you have a child who has a birth injury such as cerebral palsy, those of us in the industry may work together to write a justification so that your child can get a wheelchair.
So – who are we??
physical therapists who could be working with children who are not turning over, are not able to crawl or stand up.
occupational therapists who could be working with children who have sensory problems – they have difficulty eating independently, holding a botttle to drink, dressing themselves, using the smaller muscles in their fingers to hold a pencil. They may not be able to hold a stuffed animal. Children may not tolerate certain textures of clothes. They may have trouble falling asleep.
speech-language pathologists who could be working with children who have difficulty swallowing liquids or eating solid foods. We may see children who cough when drinking, or may need a different consistency of food so that they do not cough on it. The muscles in their mouth might be weak, they may be drooling, they may not allow you to come near their face. We deal with children who may not have adequate hearing skill so that they can learn language and we may need to help parents arrange for testing. Some children may not allow their parents to brush their teeth and we work on desensitizing the mouth so that the child will allow a toothbrush in their mouth. Some children have a neurological problem that impacts on function and all of us may work together along with
special instructors who address the cognitive delays and educational needs of the child. Some special instructors have a specialty area in using an approach called applied behavioral analysis.
social workers come in the home and work with families regarding a wide range of issues such as support services – respite care, financial matters such as application for WIC so that their children can eat!
nutritionists who may work with the parents in consultation with a speech-language pathologist and pediatrician or gastroenterologist to ensure adequate management of this area.
Does this help answer “what is the point?” Look at all the work that we are doing! Things that we take for granted are issues that the allied health professions and educators are acutely involved with in their daily practice, in treatment of infants and toddlers. We can make a huge difference! Read more about the concept of brain plasticity. i found a link when i searched this term that talks more about neuroplasticity. www.sharpbrains.com/brain-plasticity-how learning changes your brain. I encourage you to read this and any other articles you can find on the topic. i also would love to hear about other articles that you may read. Please comment with the references.
In NY state there is an organization of us who are advocating for our special needs children and highly concerned caregivers. There are significant cuts to the funding for the early intervention program that we feel are highly detrimental. Gains that we can help facilitate in the window of time to which i have referred will be lost if intervention is not provided. I encourage those of you in ny state to be aware of www.unitednyeiproviders.weebly.com and read about ways that you can help. A group will be lobbying in Albany this week, on September 20th. Information about the agenda and issues that we are advocating for in ny state is on the website i have listed. I believe that there are similar groups in other states that are advocating for the same needs because of so many cuts to the Department of Health and programming funded through medicaid. If there are some in your state, please publicize them and get the word out.
Let’s intervene before it is too late!