Letter to the Editor: Leaving no child behind

Within the last decade, the No Child Left Behind Act has been a popular debate on its effects on education reform. Its purpose was to ensure that all children have a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education.

However, what about children with disabilities or delays? Why aren’t they equally represented? Children with delays are a growing issue, which should be addressed as early as possible.

More programs are needed that function like the First Steps Program to help children of all incomes develop the skills needed that will help them thrive and learn like their peers. Early intervention or treatment is the primary step for children with delays to have any chance of having a fair, equal opportunity to gain a high-quality education.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of our nation’s children suffer from some delay or disability, but less than half of these children are provided with early intervention. Many people may think this is an issue that doesn’t affect them, but sometimes disabilities can occur unexpectedly.

Disabilities can develop later in childhood or in early adulthood as well. Also, helping children at an early age may save taxpayers a lot of money in the future.

Early intervention has the best prognosis and can prevent children from having to take lifelong special education courses, which would cost a significant amount of money.

If we look around us, we will realize that there are people we know that have a child with a delay or disability. A delay is when a child is not typically performing in at least one of the following areas: communication, cognition, physical, self-help or social and emotional.

In contrast, a disability limits functioning ability in three or more life activities such as: self-care, learning, mobility, and receptive and expressive language. Keeping your eyes open to the children in need will help them get the service they need.

From personal experience, my son was having a speech delay and even though I noticed it early, I wasn’t sure on how far behind he really was until his doctor informed me that intervention was needed. Our goal was to treat the problem before my son started into kindergarten. The doctor educated me on the First Steps Program and how they could come to my home and give him speech therapy.

Within a year, my son was able to pronounciate his words better. I was very thankful to have his problem addressed early and I was also thankful that there were programs available to help him.

However, if it wasn’t for my doctor, I would have never heard of this program.

So, I’m sure there are many people out there who need service and don’t know there are programs available for them. Many disabilities and delays can be overcome if the child is provided early, effective treatment.

However, there is not enough awareness on programs such as First Steps, which provides occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy to children, ages 0-3. This program is provided nationwide and in every county of Kentucky.

If more people advocated for this program or similar programs, more people will find out about it and seek services. In addition, with enough support, we may be able to convince legislators to provide additional funding for the program. Additional funding can go a very long way and may allow us to increase the age range past three years old and help children who are older.

Early intervention is ideal, but some parents may not spot a delay or disability in their child until they are past three years old, so it’s important for older children be addressed as well. We all need to act now and make the solution to this social problem a top priority. Children are the future and it’s pertinent to raise awareness about the innocent children born into disadvantage. No child should be left behind.

Jessica Shannon

First-year social work graduate student