Why wait?

April 21, 2017

Why wait? Trust your mommy gut!

I have been an occupational therapist for 14 years. Before I had children I always wondered why parents waited to start therapy with their children. As a therapist, I cannot tell you how many times a parent has said to me- “I wish we hadn’t waited to start therapy”, “I always knew something was off but didn’t know where to get help”, “my pediatrician said let’s wait and see”, “everyone kept telling me it was a boy thing”, “I wish I knew OT existed when he was younger”. Please trust your mommy gut. If you feel your child is struggling or things just don’t seem right with your child, you are probably right. In my experience as a therapist, the sooner I start therapy with a child  the faster progress is made. Many children that have started OT with me between 2 and 3 years old are discharged within 1 year. However, when I am seeing a child for the first time at 4 or 5 years old, progress takes a little more time, as they have developed many behavioral patterns or compensatory strategies to cope with and live in their environment. I have seen the benefits of early intervention from both sides of the table.Image-1


 My son was born 9 years ago, my happy baby boy. He met all of his milestones on time, he was talking in sentences by 18 months. My second child was born three years later, a beautiful baby girl. I tried not to compare children, as we all know everyone develops at their own pace. She walked a little late at 15 months. She was saying words at 1, and put two words together by 2. However, when she started talking more we had a hard time understanding her, as she blended all her words together. Image-1[1]I always tried to look at my children through a mom’s eyes and not a therapist’s, but I was becoming concerned with her speech. My pediatrician has always been very supportive, and wrote the referral for speech through early intervention. She was evaluated through early intervention and started services a few months before she turned three. She continued with speech through our school district once she turned 3. She made weekly progress and was discharged just before her 4th birthday! As she grew, I noticed she had more difficulty with her coordination, and was always a little on the clumsy side. I wasn’t sure if I was being the crazy therapist mom or if she really needed therapy. I had my coworker look at her, and we decided to start OT. Again, she made great progress and was discharged from OT in just a few short months. Meanwhile, we had a third child, another beautiful baby girl. Again she met all motor development on time, but at 12 months we noticed torticollis (tightening of the neck muscles). She had two months of PT, and with exercises and stretching we were done quickly. As she began to talk, we had some speech concerns. She was evaluated by early intervention as well, but the evaluator said she was right on the cusp of talking at 23 months.   Image-1So we waited. She started saying words, but was difficult to understand, as she had difficulty articulating her sounds. She started speech when she was 2 ½ and currently still gets weekly speech at 3 ½. Her therapist gives us weekly homework, and each new sound we practice  is noticeably different by the next week.

Becoming a parent has definitely made me a better therapist. I understand that life is busy, and in many households both parents work. I now know some of the reasons why parents wait- scheduling time is hard to find, fear of what the therapists may say or recommend, insurance benefits are limited, or they are “waiting and seeing” like their pediatrician or friends/family have recommended. Please let the therapist help you decide if it is a boy thing, or a two-year old attitude, or difficulty with sensory processing and attention. Occupational, physical, and speech therapy is not just for kids with “special” needs. It is for kids with ALL needs, whether their speech is hard to understand, they are a picky eater, they are a little clumsy or uncoordinated, they appear weaker than others their age, they have a hard time paying attention, they lack interest in playing with toys, or any other area that concerns you as a parent. Starting therapy will not hurt your child, but if you don’t, it could definitely impact their development and performance in school as they grow. I guess the main point is this.  Trust your mommy instincts and DON’T WAIT! I am so happy I didn’t.                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                                                – Nicole Hennings MOT,OTR/L

185 S. Marley Rd. New Lenox, IL 60451