May 10, 2004

Ralph Gardner Jr. [“Tot Therapy,” April 19] got it right regarding parents’ frenetic rush to use early intervention for young children even in the absence of serious pathologies. However, this phenomenon isn’t limited to parents worried about getting their children into prestigious city private schools. In the suburbs, a similar attitude prevails. Very early socialization skills are expected, and teachers do not tolerate squirmy, uncoordinated kids in their preschools, or even elementary schools. Scared and intimidated parents work at “fixing” their kids, but fortunately most children still manage to come out okay.
—Sheila Feit, Syosset, N.Y.

I worry about the parents out there who had concerns for their children and were about to look into evaluations. How many of them will now say, “Oh, forget it, they will be okay.” What if those children really needed help?
—Susan F. McCarthy, Manhattan

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I am increasingly concerned that what was once taught in first grade is now expected to be achieved in kindergarten, and what was once presented in kindergarten is expected to be learned in preschool. This is not developmentally appropriate. Children should spend their time exploring their environment, at their own pace, not memorizing facts and keeping journals. Teachers, parents, and related service providers need to take greater responsibility to ensure that those who truly do need services get them and to allow children who fit within normal ranges to continue to develop without undue pressure to achieve.
—Debra Burstiner, Tarrytown, N.Y.

Certainly, there are children who will catch up to their peers in a variety of developmental abilities without participating in therapy programs. But what about the others? Too often, children with vision-based learning problems struggle needlessly through school. After successful treatment, their parents always have the same question: Why didn’t anyone direct me to this type of intervention sooner?
—Leonard J. Press, Fair Lawn, N.J.

When a child doesn’t display Einstein-like qualities at 6 months, that doesn’t mean he or she is delayed and needs speech therapy. Not all children progress at the same rate. It’s a shame that there are parents who are pirating services for their children when another, more deserving child may desperately need them. Parents who have unreal expectations for such a young child are going to be continually disappointed by what they perceive as the child’s shortcomings. This will only lead to more unhappiness, frustration, and therapy down the road.
—Dassi Zeidel, Teaneck, N.J.

Early intervention turned my son from a silent 22-month-old, who sat behind the couch and made no eye contact, into a resilient, social little boy who now plays and communicates with his friends. Just because a few overanxious, uptight parents may have chosen to misuse early intervention, that is not an excuse to criticize a program that can help a child catch up during a critical time in his or her development. A wait-and-see attitude could be detrimental to a child, creating years of unnecessary struggle in later school grades.
—Maya Krueger, Manhattan

As the parent of a child with a legitimate need for early intervention, I find it extremely sad that some parents are using this program to help to create “superkids.” As adults, these children are going to need “supertherapy.” Will they look to New York State to fund that too?
—Dana Roth, Manhattan

It’s interesting that parents complain about the criteria private schools have for admissions, but then they insist on sending their children to these schools anyway. If more children from upper-class families attended public schools, it would force the private schools to change their criteria, and it just might improve the public-school system. In my opinion, part of learning is the exposure to people of various cultures and socio-economic statuses. Private schools are so expensive and strict with their admissions policies that they couldn’t possibly be graduating children with a variety of strengths and weaknesses. 
—Jennifer Danenhower, Manhattan

As a speech-language pathologist who works in the city’s Early Intervention Program, I am disappointed by Ralph Gardner Jr.’s article. He glosses over the children in the program who legitimately need intervention in order to emphasize those who receive services to “correct normal variations in development.” Of course, there are some children who are receiving unnecessary therapy, often spurred by high expectations of private schools. But what about the children who require therapeutic intervention to reach developmental milestones? A child who is speech-language delayed will not likely demonstrate later age-appropriate skills without intervention. The child will be at a disadvantage in both academic and nonacademic settings. Since the article’s publication, I have been questioned by some concerned parents as to whether their children really require therapy. In fact, most of these children truly do need our services.
—Lorri Seymon, Manhattan

May 10, 2004