Working with kids in almost any sector means that you are at the whim of school schedules, flu and cold season, holidays, summer camps, and vacations. At the Clinic, the transition from summer schedules to fall schedules always means that we have lots of morning and early afternoon appointment spots open up as big kids go back to school. And in a typical year, those spots are quickly filled by babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. We work around nap times, daycare schedules, and playgroups and love the shift in energy that the little ones bring to the middle of our days. This year, though, things are different. We certainly have the expected availability in our schedules, but there are none of the usual calls from parents for evaluations and treatment of little kids. This worries me and makes me wonder where all the little kids are.

white question mark in red, upside down teardrop shape, where are all of the preschoolers written above and below

We know from years of experience that there are loads of kids out there who need services. It’s our hunch that there may even be more than we’d typically expect due to the widespread developmental impact of the pandemic. Kids in the birth-5 age range have largely gone without social opportunities for over a year and have missed crucial time for language-rich play with peers. Limiting the number of people they interact with also means that they haven’t had the usual teachers, care providers, and relatives to see them in all these regular dynamic settings, and these are often the folks who bring developmental concerns to the attention of parents. If you know or regularly interact with kids in this age range, I encourage you to download our free resource, 5 Red Flags in Preschool Communication Development. Use it as a checklist with the littles you know and get in touch with us if it brings up any concerns or questions. We’re always happy to talk through things on the phone or via videoconference.

We also know that there are lots of parents who already know that their kids could probably benefit from some speech-language and occupational therapy, but the Delta variant continues to rage and they are justifiably nervous about contact with anyone outside their immediate circle. While we’re taking every precaution in our clinic — masks, face shields, sanitizing, and a fully vaccinated staff — we understand and respect the hesitancy towards in-person services. Vaccine approval for kids under 12 will help many families feel safer about accessing services, but critical moments in the early intervention window continue to tick by as we all wait. That’s why we’re encouraging all families who know their kiddo needs services to contact us to talk about options for online therapy, including direct 1-to-1 therapy and parent training via video.

It is my hope that the coming months will bring a wave of young kids who could benefit from our services, but I worry about the time we will have lost in the interim and how the youngest among us will continue to be impacted by this pandemic. We all do. So we’re writing blog posts like this one. We’re also reaching out to pediatricians and preschool teachers to let them know that we’re available for phone calls, video consults, and parent training for families who are not yet ready to bring their kids in for in-person services. We want as many people as possible to know that we’re here, continuing to play, imagine, and laugh with kids and families who need us.