Early Intervention in the News

20 Feb

I wrote earlier this week about the importance of maintaining funding for early intervention and special education programs in my Thoughts on Dr. Oz’s Autism Show. An article today in USA Today, Delivery even a bit early may mean developmental delays highlights another reason why maintaining early intervention services is so important.

The article discusses a new study that shows that late preterm infants (infants born between 34 and 37 weeks gestation) are significantly more at risk for mental or physical delays than are full term infants.

In mental skills, late preterm babies were 52% more likely than term infants to suffer severe delays and 43% more likely to experience milder limitations. In motor skills, the preterm toddlers faced 56% increased odds of severe delays and a 58% increased risk of milder ones.

The findings are important because they bring attention to the many kids who may no longer qualify for early intervention services due to budget cuts which have forced stricter qualification standards for services.  The USA today article quotes Dr. Marty Ellington Jr., chairman of the department of pediatrics at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“When put into a whole, (the delays) can significantly impact a child’s performance, particularly as they reach school age,” he said. “They compound each other and make it difficult for a child to function in a normal classroom.”

But the high cost of valuable early intervention programs — typically including occupational, physical and/or speech therapy — has caused many across the country to be eliminated, Ellington said.

“It’s something very concerning, given the vast numbers of infants that are having these developmental problems,” he said.

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Ellington’s views that the elimination of early intervention programs is very concerning. Kids that fall in the group discussed in the article may appear to only be slightly behind their peers but those small gaps can become much larger as a child gets older. Early intervention services can help narrow and erase developmental gaps which results in more successful kids and saves money in the long run.

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