Unless Congress acts soon, the majority of federal programs will be cut by approximately 5% on March 1, limiting already strained programs for children and adults with disabilities and their families.
I’m writing this letter because I’m concerned that Texas will decrease their funding for ECI services. Over the last year I have learned how important Early Childhood Intervention services are and I would like to share with you my story or rather my daughters’ stories. In March of 2012 Easter Seals Greater Houston evaluated my 2nd born daughter, K, who was a week away from turning two years old. We were concerned about “K”’s speech, which was delayed. Weeks prior to our evaluation “K” finally said mama, which was one of just a handful of words she could say. And when I say words, I mean “words” that only a mother could understand/figure out. After a thorough evaluation she was determined to be behind in Expressive Communication with no other delays, which wasn’t enough to qualify her for ECI services. I can’t tell you how upsetting it was to hear that my daughter ranked 2nd percentile in Expressive Communication, but that it was not enough to qualify her for the ECI speech therapy due to no other delays. In April 2012 “K” started Speech Therapy privately and after months of working with private insurance her therapy sessions were finally approved. “K” attended speech therapy for 6 months and in September 2012 she tested out of speech therapy. It’s still difficult to understand “K”, but she has come so far in such a short time. Speech Therapy did wonders for “K” and gave her the tools she needed to catch up to her peers in expressive language. Luckily for us we took the initiative to seek private speech therapy and our insurance approved it. Unfortunately, there are many children out there who don’t qualify through ECI speech or any other therapy, whose parents work but don’t have appropriate insurance or don’t have insurance at all and fall through the cracks. It makes me sad, because early intervention is so very important. And these same children will not be school ready when its time.
At the same time we were seeking services through ECI for “K” we had our 3rd child, “L”. “L” was born on March 1st, 2012 from an unremarkable pregnancy and delivery. At four months old “L” was a very fussy baby, still very newborn-like and not making eye-contact. In early July “L” was evaluated by a Pediatric Ophthalmologist and it was concluded that she was not seeing much of anything and was diagnosed with poor vision and possibly Delayed Visual Maturation. I spent the next few weeks (and months) researching everything I could on poor vision. I also contacted Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI, because I knew “L” was going to need a lot of help. I was very nervous about the evaluation, because I’d gone through this once before with “K” and was let down when she didn’t qualify. I was prepared to defend my daughters need for services, but it was apparent very early in the evaluation that “L” qualified for the services due to her poor vision and delayed motor skills. Over the following 7 months my beautiful “L” learned so much with the help of ECI services. Her services included (and continue to include) Physical Therapy 4 times a month, Occupational Therapy 3 times a month, Nutrition every 2 months and Vision services through HISD 3 times a month. “L”’s vision has improved greatly and her motor skills are almost on schedule for her age. She is now 11 months old and just started crawling. “L” has had to work so much harder to achieve her milestones and that is with the wonderful help of her therapists and teachers. I am so grateful for their help and I can’t imagine where we’d be today if it wasn’t for these services.
I was greatly worried after learning that ECI may receive decreased funding. I’m worried what decreases could do to the services our children receive. Is it going to be even harder for children to qualify? Will their delays have to be so much worse in order to qualify? Early intervention is supposed to prevent delays not wait for them to get worse. I believe Early Childhood Intervention is just that; it’s “Early Intervention”. I believe it makes a difference in children’s lives (my child’s life). It’s hard to understand how very important this service is unless you experience it for yourself with your own children. I truly feel ECI has changed my daughter’s life; that it has given her a chance to have a chance at a normal life. And I know my story is not the only one; I know there are numerous parents out there who feel the same as I do. Please continue to support our children in the program of Early Childhood Intervention. Our children deserve it!
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