A career in early intervention has countless fringe benefits, including a front row seat to first steps and first words, sticky hugs, patty cake games and a working knowledge of Paw Patrol characters. LOL. To be part of the beginning of a family’s parenting journey is a singular privilege.
When my coordinator asked me to write something to be shared here about my time working in early intervention, I found myself remembering many special families and what they have taught me about perseverance over the last 30 years. The beginning of a family’s parenting journey is a unique time in life, there is often joy and frustration and vulnerability and lots of learning and little sleep, usually some combination of these on any given day. When the newest member of the family faces health or developmental challenges it’s that and more.
…. I remember determined parents tenaciously pursuing referrals to and visiting a fourth specialist until they found access to the best treatment for their child.
….I remember a mom who had to visit WIC over and over to get the formula her baby needed, changing her work schedule each time.
….I remember the Dad who moved to 3rd shift because there was no daycare that could meet his son’s needs.
…. I remember a mom learning the vocabulary of cardiac care and English simultaneously, so she could understand and be active in her child’s treatment.
….I remember the grandma who rearranged her furniture and started strengthening exercises, so she could be on the floor with the granddaughter she wasn’t expecting to raise.
…. I remember her husband getting hearing aids, so he could actively participate in intervention and life with this precious baby.
….. I remember the 17 year-old mom who finished her GED, learned how to drop tube feeds and change her child’s catheter all in the same month.
….. I remember the mom who learned sign language and taught her entire extended family so that they could communicate with her son.
….. I remember the uncle who built an entry ramp out of scrap decking and a bath chair out of PVC pipe and a patio chair so as his nephew grew heavier his sister could still care for him solo.
…..I remember a mom (pre Facebook) who made it her mission to reach out to parents of other children with her child’s diagnosis, forming a life giving support network of parents who felt alone.
….and so many more who have worked through the unexpected that life handed them day by day with honesty, courage, tenacity and love.
The longer I practice the more acutely aware I am of the trust parents gift me with when they allow me to come alongside them for some small part of this journey. Watching these parents become accomplished advocates for their children, navigating complicated social, medical and educational systems, sifting and coordinating worlds of information and using it all as only they can, as the ones who know their precious child best, is more fulfilling than I can articulate.
Thank you to so many families who have allowed me to walk alongside them, as a small part of their story for a few of those early years, you have provided me inspiration to last a lifetime.
Beth Watkins, Speech Language Pathologist, Infant/Toddler Services