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Early Intervention & Addiction

November 30th, 2018

Unfortunately, it’s an experience most of us on the home-visiting team have had—working with a parent who is struggling with addiction. Most often, these are parents who love their child very much, but they are trapped in an addiction cycle that prevents them from responding to their child as they should, implementing interventions to teach their child new skills, and sometimes, even caring for the basic needs of their child. As developmental therapists who visit weekly in families’ homes, we know that the emotional health and stability of a parent has a great impact on a child’s development, and this past week, one of our home visitors was able to help a parent access help she desperately needed at the time she was ready. 

A couple of months ago, one of our Siskin developmental therapists, asked to attend a training focused on understanding opiod addiction and learning techniques to offer help to those affected. She learned so much about the truth of addiction, including how it affects a person’s brain and their ability to make logical decisions, even in the interest of their child. She also learned about helpful resources that are available and how to respond when a person is ready to seek help.

At the same time, this team member had spent months building rapport and trust with a young mother in our early intervention program, understanding that this mom was struggling with addiction, but not judging her. Many home visits felt to be wasted time, as she could not participate well in discussion about her child, practice new teaching ideas or brainstorming to solve concerns regarding her child. Our developmental therapist waited patiently and continued making her weekly visits, also reaching out to a grandparent who was helping to care for the child. This past weekend, this mom contacted our staff, sharing that she could not go on living the way she has been and asking how she could get help for her addiction. We were ready to offer a resource for addiction recovery, as well as encouragement, and we learned this morning that this mom is on her way today, traveling to get the in-patient treatment help she desperately needs.

In early intervention, we know that supporting and helping young children with special needs begins with supporting their parents and caregivers. What will impact a young child more than any specialized intervention or therapy will be having a mother who is emotionally and physically healthy, stable, and able to respond to her child on a daily basis. As a team, we are grateful and honored to be able to visit families in their homes, build trust through the process, and then, be available to support a young family like this one in such a life-changing way when we have the opportunity.

Author: Deidra Love, Director, Home & Community-Based Early Intervention