I had my youngest son 10 weeks early.
All new moms know that overwhelming, information-overload, sleep-deprived feeling so well. That feeling is amplified when you’re thrust into the NICU, navigating tubes and cords to care for your new baby.
So it’s understandable that you might miss a few of the details that the hospital shares with you when you’re finally ready to go home. This new precious life is your focus, and as a mom, you triage all that information from the hospital. I paid close attention to the feeding log, the cues for breathing and eating challenges, and to the follow up appointment schedule for the visiting nurses.
But hidden in the packet of discharge information I received from the hospital was a flyer from Grant Wood Area Education Agency, the AEA that supports Cedar Rapids and the surrounding areas. I never noticed the flyer until years later when I was sifting through mementos from my son’s birth.
Had I read that flyer, I would have realized that services existed to help me during that stressful time when I was watching his development so closely. I worried so much over his delayed gross motor development during that first year! I wish I had known someone could come into my home, evaluate him, and put my mind at ease. A team of experts was ready and able to help me understand what were acceptable adjusted milestones for a preemie.
But life is an amazingly small circle, isn’t it? Today I work for Grant Wood AEA and am so much more familiar with the supports available for parents like me.
So here’s my public service announcement for new moms and parents of young children.
I know you don’t have time to ‘read the flyer’ that’s buried in a world overloaded with information. In my job I’ve learned a few key words and tricky phrases that we toss around the office. It’s my duty as a mom of a NICU survivor to share those words with other parents.
Here’s a short list of resources to help parents when they have concerns about their child’s development or behavior:
AEA supports aren’t just for preemies. Mama, you’ll sound like a veteran when you ask about Early ACCESS. This is a service available across Iowa and available locally through the AEA for children under 3 years of age. Staff members help parents when they suspect developmental delays or disability in their baby or toddler.
Daycare Interventions – CART
Make a note of this for future reference, local moms! When my friend’s son was at risk of being kicked out of daycare due to his outbursts and a rash of hitting, together the parents and the daycare called the AEA’s Childcare Alliance Response Team (CART) team. The AEA staff member observed the little boy several times at daycare and suggested some time with a play therapist to help show the little guy better ways to ‘voice’ his frustrations instead of slugging his daycare friends. (Trust me, even if this isn’t a lifeline your child needs, it’s probably helpful when your bestie is crying over Starbucks after a challenging daycare experience.)
Developmental and Cognitive Supports for School-Aged Children
No one knows your child like you do, but sometimes a teacher sees a different side of your child. When your child starts school, you might discover she needs specific instructional help or resources beyond what the teacher typically offers. The AEA has staff assigned to support your kid’s classroom. A parent or teacher request notifies them that there’s a need to evaluate a child. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
It’s hard to know all the resources you’ll need down the road to help you and your child. While you might not need the resources today, you might provide a valuable connection to services needed down the road. I’m fortunate to have access to these experts at work, and compile a lot of it in a parent blog called, The Carpool Lane.
Jump in for a test drive: these children of ours are going to give us one wild ride!
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