A New World for Michael
“A little boy with developmental delays is ready for preschool”
“We worried about his loss of language, his lack of gestures, and his repetitive play habits,” Christina recalls. “Michael did not seem to interact with other people. He was in his own little world.” When Michael was 21 months old, his pediatrician suggested that Christina and Michael Sr. consult the Early Intervention Program. They called immediately to schedule an evaluation and that was when Joan Lawton entered their lives. Joan is a certified pediatric nurse who is a case manager for VNA Health Group’s Early Intervention program in Burlington County. Christina and Michael Sr. found Joan supportive and reassuring. She helped prepare them for their son’s evaluation at home by an occupational therapist and a preschool teacher. The evaluation confirmed Michael’s developmental delays in several areas, including language, self-help, sensory integration and fine motor skills.
The family was offered occupational therapy, speech therapy and behavioral therapy, each for one hour a week at home. “We were overwhelmed by all the information, but we accepted these services with a huge sigh of relief,” says Christina. The speech and language pathologist started to teach Michael sign language, and helped him express his needs by using his hands. The occupational therapist addressed the child’s sensory integration and processing issues. The behavioral therapist helped him develop the skills he needed in order to play meaningfully and worked with his parents on improving his attention skills. Michael Sr. and Christina credit all of the therapists with awakening their son’s social interests. They now feel better equipped to help Michael navigate his way through social interactions. “Michael has phenomenal parents,” says Joan Lawton. “They have learned and followed through on everything. That’s why Michael has made such great progress.” As he turns three, Michael is transitioning from Early Intervention to Special Child Health Services, where he will continue to be supported to ensure the continuity of his care. He will enter the Evesham School District’s program for preschoolers with disabilities. In January, Michael was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, “a diagnosis that seemed to be less scary and more of a blessing,” Christina observes. “Thanks to Early Intervention we had an understanding of our son and—finally—a diagnosis that will help us prepare him for school.”
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