Early Years (0-5)

“Who is rich? He/she who rejoices in his/her portion.”
Pirkei Avot - Ethics of the Fathers 

The early years of your child’s life are an exciting time full of dreams and challenges. However, concerns about a child’s development or suspicion of a disability diagnosis could overshadow the joy of a new child. At times, these thoughts and potential challenges may seem overwhelming. It is critical that parents understand: a delay or disability does not define your child; instead, it may explain his/her behavior. It may be worrisome or hard to hear, but, with the right diagnosis, you can begin to get the information you need. With the right therapy, technology and support, you can greatly improve your life, your family’s life and the life of your child.

The first five years of a child’s life are among the most important. Giving your child the appropriate services can shape your child’s future health, happiness, growth, development and learning. With love and proper nurturing, your child will develop a sense of trust and security and grow into a confident adult.

What do you do when you realize your child might need assistance?

Step 1: Take notes and record videos.
Watch your child and document his/her behavior. Videos can be helpful when you go to see a doctor.

Here is a comprehensive list of developmental milestones from birth – 5 years. 

Step 2: Talk to your pediatrician.
Keep your child's pediatrician informed. Explain your concerns and seek their insight on recommended tests and reports.  If needed, you should consult with a developmental pediatrician as well.

Step 3: Get information and support.
Contact local support agencies for children’s support programs and personal support.

Step 4: Develop your network.
Meet with the recommended professionals who can assess your child and determine next steps. Every specialist is different. Some will examine, order extensive tests and present a diagnosis and prognosis, which can become costly. Others will send you to another specialist. Keep a record of what you are learning.

Step 5: Keep seeking answers.
A diagnosis is, in many ways, the start of the story. Perhaps it will develop and grow with your child, or perhaps it will prove inaccurate. Seek a diagnosis early, but don't stop seeking information. 

Source: Special Needs Kids Information
Please note: while this website originated in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area, we found its information useful for all!

Jewish Baltimore has a great network of supports for children with different abilities:

The Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE) is committed to enhancing the connection to life and learning of individuals with special needs, so that they can more fully participate in the Jewish community. Through CJE’s work, these individuals develop their Jewish educational, spiritual, cultural, social and religious lives. CJE works with local school systems, Federal programs and other area non-profit organizations to help parents of students with special needs find the resources and connections they need to assist their children.

The Baltimore JCC's department for people with Special Needs provides appropriate social and recreational programs for children, teens and adults with disabilities. Our programs give participants the opportunity to interact with their peers, enhance self-esteem and improve social skills. Whenever possible, we encourage the integration of participants into JCC classes, camps, after-school programs, groups and events. Inclusion in these programs helps these very special members develop a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish community.

Jewish Community Services (JCS) provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland.  JCS is committed to helping individuals with special needs grow, learn, work and participate fully in community life.  We provide a wide array of services for people with developmental disabilities and their families.  JCS provides counseling, advocacy and case management services to children, adults and families of individuals with special needs. Other services include assistance with independent living skills, tutoring, and locating and obtaining special equipment.  JCS works with the Developmental Disability Administration (DDA) to obtain and fund resources and services. 

SHEMESH provides, on a community-wide basis, the educational support necessary for Jewish children with learning differences to reach their full intellectual, academic, emotional and social potential in a Jewish setting. Services are offered in each school in accordance with the school's educational and religious policies.

Quick Links:

Child Find
Kodem Kol (ages 0-3): Early Intervention Service Coordination for Infants and Toddlers and Their Families in the Jewish Community