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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; common sense, right? Common sense tells us that the sooner we can detect that a child is at-risk for developing a disability, the easier it will be to prevent or ease the severity of the disability. This concept is largely known as "early intervention."

Fortunately, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA) mandated the use of common sense in the U.S. Under this act, every child is entitled to a fair and appropriate education. More specifically, in Part C of IDEA Congress declared that, “there is an urgent and substantial need to… enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities and to minimize their potential for developmental delay” (34 C.F.R., Sec. 631a). Although this act was revolutionary in that the government was finally acknowledging the children it had neglected for so long, its message was not news to the parents and advocates of children with disabilities. Better late than never.

A family's early intervention program should include services such as speech therapy, physical therapy, parent education/supports and other family-centered services that assist the child in development. Again, the law requires that such a program be available to all families who need it. At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Dr. Craig Ramey reported that children with disabilities (particularly mental retardation) can be helped by intensive educational and stimulation programs and services. These services may be provided at the family’s home, at a school or daycare, a church, or any other setting the family prefers.

Effective early intervention services (such as welfare, health care, Parents as Teachers, Head Start, etc.) are-- thankfully--being recognized as the valuable resources they are. It has taken many years, but the care of all children, including those with severe disabilities, is finally becoming a societal pursuit.

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