Last month we talked about what the Ages & Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) is, why to check early and often and where to do so (https://wkearlyyears.ca/check-early-check-often/). Today we are sharing a very personal story from local early childhood educator and parent of 2 boys, Sarah K.
Sarah’s older son was 18 months old when she was offered his first ASQ. While he met most of his milestones, she had her own niggling concerns. He was not making eye contact when she called his name and she felt that his language was not at the same level as other children his age. After the first screen, Sarah had a hearing check for him and ruled out any auditory issues. She was given some tools by a speech therapist to support his language development and they decided to follow up with another screen at 24 months.
For the second ASQ, a public health nurse came to her home (in Vancouver at the time) and presented information about her child in a negative way. Sarah had a new baby, was overwhelmed and decided to put it aside. Her son’s language was improving and she was checking in with a pediatrician every 4 months. Looking back now, Sarah feels that her son needed both speech and occupational therapy at that time, but she did not feel supported to take that step.
When Sarah moved to Nelson, she enrolled her son at Kootenay Kinderschool and almost immediately, the early childhood educators there opened the door to conversation about him.
Sarah was relieved – she was open to talking and wanted to act on their professional observations. Through the support of the staff there, Sarah was connected to our regional Supported Child Development program. The local consultant came to meet her son and echoed Sarah’s concerns. She got the ball rolling and soon enough, he was seeing an occupational therapist, speech therapist and pediatrician. This support helped Sarah to look at the big picture and to really figure out what was happening for her son. In her case, it all led to more extensive assessment. The whole process took about 11 months and her son was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
While most Ages & Stages Questionnaires do not lead to a diagnosis, for Sarah, it was the stepping stone that helped her to get one – and receiving a diagnosis was very emotional, but in a positive way.
It was a huge weight lifted off of her chest. Sarah was anxious about her son’s behavior and did not have the tools to help him. Sarah’s advice to other parents is: “If you have a gut feeling, a mother’s intuition, listen to it. Err on the side of caution. If you get assessed and it’s nothing, that’s fine. But if something comes up, you are able to get support right away. If you get support when they are 7 or 8, it’s a lot harder to access it, and harder for them. When they are young and still developing, they can acquire the tools that they need, like recruiting muscles in your body. You learn tool, a skill and move forward in life.”
Now Sarah has a community of early years support services around her. She feels that there are wonderful supports in Nelson, but “you do need to ask the questions in order to find them. Once you have found them, they are very supportive.”
Sarah will continue to check early and check often with her second child as well.
She says that our community early years professionals are “passionate about helping children, helping families – you are in good hands. It’s hard, but it’s good. It’s been really positive for our family.”
Sarah is happy to connect with other families who may be having a similar experience. If you would like to talk with her, or have questions about her family’s story, we can connect you to her. If you would like more information about where to get an ASQ anywhere in the West Kootenays, let us know – we know where to go!
Thank you to Sarah, for having the strength and courage to share her family’s journey with us.