When my first five children were little, I knew many young moms like myself. Our church and neighborhood were full of them. Several times a week we would call each other and get together to share important news such as who had just slept through the night, taken their first step, thrown a public tantrum, used the potty, and, quite often, who was expecting … again.
Three years ago, at 41, I became the mother of a newborn again. In many ways, my past experiences were a big help, but in other ways I was starting over again. My support system had changed. Also, T’s timetable for some skills has been a bit different from my other children. He smiled early and often and engaged people in delightful social interactions, but his physical and verbal skills came along later than usual. He required more support and encouragement from me to reach milestones such as crawling, walking, using words, and following directions.
Because of T’s delays, he qualified for early intervention (EI) services. Our EI experience began with a joint visit from Judy (developmental therapist) and Barry (physical therapist), who came into our living room, kicked their shoes off, and sat down on the floor with us. Barry was able to explain the mechanics of crawling and walking to help me identify very small steps of progress and to be encouraged by each one as it came. He assured me that walking would come, even if it didn’t happen on the schedule provided on the developmental milestone checklists.
On her first visit to our home, Judy pointed out T’s strong social skills. She noted that each time she pulled a new toy from her bag, T would look at me to make sure I was watching, too. “That’s establishing joint attention,” she said. I knew right away that I would enjoy having her in our home. One of T’s first words came from his times with Judy, when he would look at her large, zippered bag, sign and say, “Open!”
Later on, we added speech services with Maureen and occupational therapy services with Stacie, who provided sensory input during therapy. Sara, who provides developmental therapy for vision, also joined the team to monitor and provide input on issues related to T’s vision. Maureen and Sara brought valuable experience both as therapists and as mothers who had seen their children through early intervention and special education services. They gave me the kind of mom-to-mom insight I needed. “You have to remember that they are kids first. Don’t let disabilities or delays make you forget that. Right now, he’s just being 2!” These conversations took me back to those crowded living room chats years ago. They encouraged me; they reminded me I was not alone.
Although I knew the time was right for T to “age out” of the EI program when he turned 3, I will miss our early intervention days. Not only was therapy good for T, it met a need in my life, providing new ideas and input and a team of concerned listeners who were genuinely interested in our news. This time around, my experience as a mom has been different, but I’m certain that I will remember these past three years with happy thoughts of my friends who saw me through.