Your Child May Be Entitled to Services. Good Luck.

doing the services dance

SD was a “special needs” adoption. She had a cleft palate, and her speech was delayed. (She’s making up for it now, boy howdy.) The state we live in, Michigan, supposedly provides early-intervention services to help. And they do—on paper—but accessing them was a beast, and apparently this is not unusual. Dunno what your state is like, but here’s what we found, and how we finally got our service happening.

Our pediatrician told us SD’s cleft palate automatically entitled her to state services, so Doc called Michigan’s early intervention program, which is for kids under three. The local representative came over, interviewed us, met and assessed SD and said, yep, she’s entitled to services. But they had no speech therapist to offer her.

We had to pay for a pricey local speech therapist who had little knowledge of cleft issues. A spendy fail.

After some months went by, the state contacted us to say we needed another assessment. O-kay. The same person came back over, we got a new assessment, and she was gone again. This happened twice. No speech therapy.

SD finally aged out of the state program, which was probably their plan all along. It’s not surprising. After all, they get funding by having your child on their rolls, and then save money by not providing your child any services.

We discussed our feelings of defeat with SD’s awesome daycare director, who said something like, “Don’t worry. I’ll handle them.” She made some calls, set up some meetings (at which she made sure to be present) and successfully connected us with the local school district’s services. A weekly speech therapist started visiting SD at daycare, and when SD got to kindergarten, speech therapy was ready and waiting. It’ll continue through first grade next year.

Here’s the trick: You need an experienced advocate to get services for a special-needs kid. Reach out out your daycare provider, or the director of any local daycare (these folks tend to be nice people, right?). Maybe your child’s doctor knows someone, or there may be a local organization for adoptive or foster parents that can steer you to some sage, wise in the ways of government agencies. Maybe there was somebody involved in your adoption, say, a therapist, who knows how to push the right buttons.

It’s too bad it can be this hard, but you can score a win for your little one. Just get calm, get help, and go get her services.

Eye-catcher: Joel Kramer