Charlie came to his first appointment with the Early Social Development and Intervention Lab when he was 6 weeks old, after his mom, Megan, learned about the study through her OBGYN provider. Already involved in research with UofSC, Megan was enthusiastic about getting her son involved too. She contacted the ESDI Lab and we enrolled Charlie in the study shortly after.
At the time, little did Megan know the extent to which this study would shed light on Charlie’s unique developmental needs. Nor did she realize how it would pave the way for him to receive helpful resources for his language and communication. Because of the close monitoring and feedback from the study, Megan learned how to promote Charlie’s developmental milestones and gained access early intervention services when he needed them most. Charlie’s younger brother, Rory, is now enrolled in the study and he, too, is benefiting from the close monitoring and support.
We had the chance to interview Megan as she shared her experience of participating in the research with her children. Here’s what she shared:
“I've loved it with both of my children. I look forward to it every time we come into the lab because it's just so fun to see the changes every time we come in.
With Charlie, I had no baseline of his development because he was my first kid. I had no idea what to pay attention to or how to encourage his development. During our lab visits I saw the tasks that they were having him practice in the lab, and I was like OK, I see what you're trying to get him to do.
We would go home and practice these tasks and this would give me an idea of what we could do to help him. Each time we came into the lab he got closer and closer to completing the tasks. It was so fun to see how he was developing and what he was able to accomplish after each session... Now I can practice these skills with Rory and I have a better idea of what to do with him. Every time I come into the lab I look forward to learning something new.”
Through the study, Megan learned that Charlie had some speech delays that had not been addressed with his other providers. The close monitoring and feedback she received helped her better understand Charlie’s needs and advocate for the right services for him. She stated,
“With Charlie I always assumed that he was progressing normally. But I did notice that he didn't babble a whole lot and I couldn't really get him to imitate our speech. We were always told that he would be ‘fine’ and that he would grow out of it. But Dr. Bradshaw noticed these concerns too and monitored him closely through the study. She encouraged us to get speech therapy in place and wrote a detailed recommendation letter to Baby Net. This was all it took for us to get the services for him. We got Charlie enrolled in speech therapy when he was 2 years old then in occupational and physical therapy to support his gross motor skills.”
Megan also stated that the study helped calm her fears about her children’s development. Knowing that Dr. Bradshaw and her team of expert clinicians were monitoring her children and providing recommendations as needed helped her relax.
“Participating in the study was the best thing we have done for them… it helps you relax to know that someone else is closely monitoring you child and giving you a second opinion… You don’t have to worry about it or second guess yourself.”
Now, it’s been over two years since Charlie first enrolled in the study. He has graduated from the program and continues to show progress with his development since receiving the speech, occupational, and physical therapy services. His communication continues to show improvements and he is “playing more like a child his age.”
Without this research, according to Megan, “we wouldn’t have known he had these delays or that these services were needed at this time. Without participating in the study we definitely would not be where we are today.”
Towards the end of the interview, I asked Megan what feedback or advice she would give to parents who are interested in the study, but who might feel hesitant to take the next steps. Here's how she responded:
“I definitely understand the hesitancy. You don't want your children feeling like they’re lab experiments or something like that. But the research really just involves watching how they develop and how they learn new skills. They observe your infant while you and your baby play in a controlled environment… There’s nothing scary about it. If at any point the kids get uncomfortable or fussy, they stop and let them have a break. There's no reason to not participate in this lab because if anything, just the data that you get from their scores and all of the feedback from Dr. Bradshaw makes it all worth it. Anyone who is interested should participate… I mean, it’s just invaluable.”