Get the Referral


Get the ReferralI’ve read a lot lately about us trusting our intuition as moms, the experts of our own children and the ones who know them best. And I’m 100% on board. I think no one can be as fierce an advocate as a mom who is determined to seek out the best for her child. I’ve personally known moms who have pushed and pushed to finally receive a diagnosis when they knew something wasn’t right with their child but couldn’t find anyone who believed them.

But I read something recently that I think took mom intuition into troublesome territory.

The blog post was written by a mother whose child was showing signs of having a speech delay as he approached two years of age with very few words. Her son’s communication eventually improved with little intervention and this mom was using her platform to reassure others whose kids aren’t on the typically developing timeline not to panic or get too wrapped up in arbitrary milestones.

I know that milestones fall on a wide spectrum and many apparent issues can resolve themselves with nothing more than some extra time. But I also believe that if a trained professional suggests my child might need additional support from a specialist, there is really nothing to be lost, and potentially everything to be gained, from getting that referral.

I get that it can be scary to face the prospect that our child might not be developing typically in one or more areas. As moms, we tend to let our anxiety carry us over the deep end in a heartbeat and google is definitely not our friend in this regard. I think the hesitancy to have our kids evaluated — be it with a speech language pathologist, an occupational or physical therapist, a mental health counselor or someone else — comes from a desire to normalize these behaviors and avoid the stigma of a label. We want our kids to have a typical childhood, doing all the things we envisioned for them when they were born and more.

But that’s the whole point of getting our kids the support they need from specialists who have unique training in their particular set of challenges. Early intervention has come a long way in the last few decades and can make a huge difference in a kid’s later life. Tennessee and many other states have agencies like Tennessee’s Early Intervention System which exist solely to help connect families to resources their children may need before they ever even enter the school system.

I know none of us want to receive news that something is not “right” with our kids. It can be hard to come to terms with the fact that they might need more help than we can provide them. But a referral for a specialist has nothing to do with parenting failures and everything to do with helping our kids reach the full, amazing potential we see when we look in their faces. And if additional people exist whose entire job is to help our kids be their most successful selves, why wouldn’t we want as many people as possible in our kid’s corner?

Don’t be afraid to get that referral, mama. It may turn out to be nothing and you’ll only be out a couple hours for the initial appointment. But it could also turn out to be one of the best decisions you ever make for your child.

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Sara Hill
Hi! I’m Sara, former early childhood teacher turned stay at home mom to my four year old daughter and one year old son. My husband and I have been married for seven years and are both ETSU alumni. Despite being born here, I grew up all over the country as the daughter of a military family and I’ve only been back in the area for three years. I love all that Knoxville has to offer young families in the way of festivals, events, outdoorsy adventures and charm. My hobbies include single-minded obsession of Disney movies, partying at all hours of the night, drenching the bathroom in water during baths and hunger strikes. No, wait, sorry, that’s my kids’ list. Mine includes baking, reading, Netflix-ing and Pinterest-ing. And, ok, I love a good musical as well as the next four year old.


  1. Yes!!! I totally agree! Our son was seen by TEIS and very quickly referred to ChildFind, and then placed with the speech pathologist at our zoned school. From there, he was further evaluated, and by the time he was 4 had officially been diagnosed with Aspergers. For us, to finally have a name for the things we knew were different but couldn’t put a finger on was huge. But I will never forget our principal asking if we “wanted to put that in his file,” because so many parents are afraid to label their kid. For starters, if we don’t include it, how will his future teachers know how to help him? But even more importantly, having Aspergers does not define my son, it simply is part of who he is. Being aware of his specific diagnosis helps others understand why he might respond differently or have trouble in certain situations. Everyone has quirks; his just have a name.
    So, all that to say, if you feel like your child might not be meeting typical milestones, or if you notice something off or unclear in their development, seek answers. So many things can be resolved with early intervention, and even if it’s something that will never “go away,” learning how to help them – learning how to cope with it yourself – is so much better than just pretending everything is fine. ❤️


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