January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. The CDC wants you to know that it is important to remember that babies with birth defects who survive their first year of life can have lifelong challenges, such as problems with infections, physical movement, learning, and speech. Early intervention services are vital to improving outcomes for these babies.
Pablo was born with cleft lip and cleft palate. Pablo’s mother, Belen, tells of all the services he’s needed, saying, “Many people believe that kids like Pablo only need plastic surgeries to be okay. Depending on the severity of the cleft, these kids see other specialists too. In Pablo’s case, we started with an occupational therapist and a speech therapist (who he still sees weekly). We also meet with a speech pathologist regularly as well as an ear, nose, and throat doctor, a dentist, an orthodontist, and a plastic surgeon.” Despite everything Pablo has been through, Belen says, “I know that one day he will be a wonderful role model for other kids with cleft lip and palate. And I love watching him grow and foreseeing the man he will become.”
Ian was born with a condition called gastroschisis, a birth defect where his intestines stick outside of his body through an opening beside the belly button. He had a number of problems as a result of his condition and had to spend a lot of time in the hospital undergoing many different procedures. His mom, Jessica, describes his continued needs, saying, “Ian receives special services for speech and development because of his long term hospitalizations.” Early intervention can really help these children thrive. Jessica says of her son, “He loves school, his dance club, and his friends. Despite everything he has been through, he continues to endure with a smile—he is a true Warrior!”
Early intervention services help children from birth to 3 years old (36 months) learn important skills. Services include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and interact with others. No single treatment or intervention is the answer for every child or family. Good intervention plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups and any changes needed along the way. It is important to talk to your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think your child needs help. Even if your child has not been diagnosed with a specific condition, he or she may be eligible for early intervention treatment services. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that children under the age of 3 years (36 months) who are at risk of having developmental delays may be eligible for services. These services are provided through an early intervention system in your state. Through this system, you can ask for an evaluation. While early intervention is extremely important, intervention at any age can be helpful.
Learn more about early intervention
Written By: Cynthia A. Moore, M.D., Ph.D. Director
Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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