You would never know that our son has challenges. By looking at him, you would think he’s a happy, rambunctious little boy. However, our sweet child started having challenges in a classroom at 2. He was impulsive and had a hard time following the plan. He was hard to manage because he didn’t follow directions.

We tried all types of strategies and even changed schools, but his challenges did not diminish. Was it our parenting? Had something happened to him at a prior day care to cause this behavior? Why was the behavior only in school? We read dozens of parenting books and websites, but there were no answers. He was struggling and unhappy. We were frustrated and at a loss for direction.

At a checkup with our family pediatrician, she recommended that we contact Child Development Services. A division of the Maine Department of Education, Child Development Services took on our case. They set up a meeting with our son’s school to better understand him; coordinated a 360-degree view of him, his strengths and challenges; and helped us find a team that would evaluate him to better understand what was going on.

Members of the Child Development Services team are proficient navigators of a complex web of doctors, therapists and schools. They draw on a network of experts in early childhood development skilled in early intervention for autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and behavioral disorders. We were linked to professionals who helped diagnose what could be the issue. For the first time in over a year, we felt that we had some answers.

From there we were able to find our son an amazing preschool program that built a plan to support his specific needs. CDS coordinated creating meaningful goals we (our son, his educators and us as parents) all could work toward. In the center of this plan was our child. Our boy was finally linked with a team of professionals who understood the developmental abilities of 3- to 5-year-olds. We have seen remarkable progress since starting to work with Child Development Services, and we are forever grateful to the team for helping us navigate this challenging period as we prepare for kindergarten.

And yet we may be one of the last families in Maine to benefit from the help of these professionals.


L.D. 1870, a bill that was introduced last week by state Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, and was rushed to a public hearing Monday, seeks to dissolve Child Development Services and simultaneously split its responsibilities between the Department of Education’s Office of Special Services and regional school units across the state.

The bill is based on a fundamentally flawed assumption: that the regional school units, whose responsibility is to educate children age 6 and older, are best able to serve children as young as 3.

Somehow, apparently, the several thousand Maine 3- to 5-year-olds who need the expert support of Child Development Services — an agency whose only mission is to support Maine’s children with special needs — will be served just as well by the school districts, which are already struggling with insufficient funding, inadequate facilities and a shortage of special education providers.

I can only assume this is a budget cut, though no budgetary explanation was included with L.D. 1870.

The financial or educational case for this bill isn’t obvious. No study seems to have been made; if it has been carried out, the results certainly have not been presented to or reviewed by families and other concerned parties. With this bill about to go before the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, I’ve seen no clear-eyed explanation as to how the proposal will better serve, rather than harm, Maine’s most developmentally at-risk children.

What I do know is that, without a well-researched, well-thought-out and well-reasoned approach, this will leave Maine children with special needs without the expert, caring and determined support network that Child Development Services provides and that has been invaluable to our son’s journey in overcoming his early developmental challenges. This bill, if approved, will put thousands of special-needs children in Maine at risk, now and into the future.

Lindsay Humphreys is a resident of Portland.

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