In this episode, we sit down with Molly Mecka to talk about personal experiences with early intervention and ways we can continue supporting the life-changing industry.
TORSH’s mission is to improve educator instructional effectiveness by providing schools and organizations with a robust suite of online professional learning tools and insights. We harness the power of video, actionable data, and expert coaching to promote high quality growth opportunities for educators accessible anytime and from anywhere. We provide a centralized location for personalized learning, collaboration, and growth.
Staacy Cannon 0:27
I’m Stacey Cannon, the Senior Director of growth and marketing with TORSH Talent
Elise Zavadak 0:31
And I’m Elise Zavadak, the director of Account Services with TORSH Talent.
Staacy Cannon 0:35
Welcome to the second episode of our inaugural podcast series – People of Talent. Today we’re talking to Molly Mecka. Molly is a longtime and dear friend of mine. We have been through the ringer together, we were college buddies, and Molly was my birthing coach through my first child. She always held a special place in my heart. She’s gone through some things, has an amazing family, and has an amazing story to share. We invited her to talk to us a little bit about her experience with early intervention. So Molly, if you want to give us a little background on that, that would be awesome. And thank you again for taking time to do this.
Molly Mecka 1:22
Thank you so much for even thinking of me to be on this. I get really excited to talk about early intervention because I think that it is such a wonderful, wonderful thing. And it was such a big part of creating success in our family. It was something that I never ever knew that we were going to need. So just a little background, my husband and I have one child, we have a little boy Madden. He is five years old, and he joined us very early. He decided that he was going to come three months early. So I went to the hospital at 25 weeks pregnant and ended up having him at 27 weeks. I was very sick and it was very touch and go. He spent three months in the ICU and then came home with us – at three months old. I think we were hitting maybe five pounds at that point and we still had a lot of, you know, medical stuff to deal with. Which is one thing that nobody really tells you about when you have a premature baby like that, because you’re so focused on just like getting out of the hospital, that they don’t explain all of the long term stuff that you’re dealing with once you do get out of the hospital. So the life of a preemies parent with a new baby at home is very, very busy. The very first thing that I would tell new preemies moms to do is to get a giant calendar planner book that you can start writing down all of your appointments in because you go from not realizing that you might have to have one appointment a month when you’re pregnant to having a preemie baby and having sometimes three and four appointments a week that you’re dealing with, on top of trying to assimilate back into some sense of normalcy and having a baby at home and trying to be a normal mom, and feed, and change, and sleep. And then those just, you know, basic things.
Staacy Cannon 3:28
A first time mom at that too.
Molly Mecka 3:30
Yeah, and a first time mom at that to say the least. So, early intervention became a part of our life right away when Matt came home from the hospital, because of his low birth weight and how early he was born, he qualified for their services. And we were really grateful for it because early intervention was the one part of the equation that would come to our home and it took some of the stress out of the whole idea of all of these appointments and specialists and what is wrong with my baby and what is right with my baby. So we started right away with a case manager and then we quickly started adding to our team. So Madden had a nutritionist dietician, he had a physical therapist, he had someone that came to check on his sites. In the beginning he had a speech therapist through early intervention, he had an occupational therapist, all of those people were able to come and do home visits for his sessions, which was just magic for us. I mean, it was so great, but the way that our state was set up is early intervention goes until age three and then at age three is when the school district then picks up and deals with any issues that are remaining with the child at that point. So you kind of graduate out of the program and you’re either done completely or you qualify for more with the district depending on your child’s needs. But they were, they immediately became part of part of our team in general. I mean, we always realize that everything with our son was about a team approach that we needed all the eyeballs on them and all of the brains to think about it and everybody to kind of be part of the help figuring out solutions for things. So we welcome having an affiliate.
Elise Zavadak 5:46
I’m curious about that transition to the you know, where the school district kind of took over that role of providing early intervention, what kind of support was offered to you at that point, and how did that differ? Did you have to look for support on your own in addition to what was offered? What was that experience like?
Molly Mecka 6:06
Yeah, so when you’re part of the process of early intervention, there’s a lot of assessments that are happening, right? Depending upon your field and what your specialty is, you might know each of your visits, there’s some sort of an assessment that you’re taking so that you are keeping track of progress and or wherever you’re falling behind. So as the child’s approaching their third birthday, that’s when you start to schedule the assessments with schools that tend to be a little bit more involved. You have to go down there for a couple of different appointments, doing different assessments with their specialists. So they’re doing kind of basically a lot of developmental assessments, a lot of neuro developmental assessment, to see if you know, your kid is falling on the spectrum at all. Or, where any deficits are that are not being met – if there’s communication deficits, so speech therapy is still a problem. Or, are there lots of different things that are problems? So depending upon where you fall on your assessment that will then in turn, let you know what kind of resources are available to you if you qualify for those skills. So for Matt, and he qualified for speech after early intervention, so we remained with the district doing speech therapy for I think about another year and a half was how long he got that.
Staacy Cannon 7:40
So where are you guys today? Where’s your family out with early intervention today?
Molly Mecka 7:45
Well, we love our intervention team. Then we get very, very excited and we all give hugs and show pictures and every once in a while that’ll happen, we’ll be out at Target or, you know, Costco or something and run into our case manager. I ran into our physical therapist a few times. I keep in touch with some of them on social media too. But we no longer use early intervention. Madden is five years old, we’ve also graduated out of speech therapy with the school district. So we don’t get any resources from the state anymore at this time, which is awesome. But I will say that just this last fall, just a few months ago, we were still dealing with some developmental kind of behavioral issues. My early intervention time was almost like training because when I went back into like, the resource hunt mode and tried to reach out to people that I know, So, we ended up doing some evaluations of him just recently that aren’t through the state but it was from an instant insight. I think my time with them trains me for having to look for other resources or other places to evaluate.
Elise Zavadak 9:06
Something I’m thinking about is, first of all, I think that’s amazing that he’s kind of graduated out of early intervention. So something that this makes me think about is, you know, obviously talk about all these different moving pieces. Like I think I was counting on my hand and I’ve got, like five or so different providers. I’m sure there were more than that. But how do you think the concept of team and collaboration between those different providers at that time impacted Madden being able to know say, like, hey, let me get that diploma out of early intervention, I’m ready to go you know, how do you think them collaborating together impacted that if it did it all.
Molly Mecka 9:47
I think it was hugely important. I mean, with all that collaboration, I can tell you that I have a range of people. I have so much paperwork because every visit was questionnaires and signatures and multiple copies and keeping this file and they keep this file and this file back here. But it was also important because everybody had to have the same information about progress. With that also being said, everybody’s insight was so important. So Matt had a lot of trouble with eating. So his nutritionist was a big part of our team and trying to figure out how to get him to gain weight and how to get over some of these issues that we’re having feeding and then we decided to bring in an occupational therapist to try and work with that us on that. And it turns out that that wasn’t the issue. We had an underlying medical condition going on that we need to get diagnosed, but everybody’s input and everybody’s attempts to solve the problem or ideas on how we could maybe solve the problem was so important because it’s that process of elimination that, you know, scientists and doctors do every day like, we can’t say what something is maybe right off the bat, but we can say what it’s not. And the more that we can eliminate what it’s not, the closer we are to finding out what it really is. And I think that’s a totally accurate picture of how you’re trying to deal with a child at this point. We can start to eliminate things that we know that they don’t have wrong, but we can’t quite pinpoint what the one thing is. And we need all the people on the team to give their insight and your expertise to that and in order to get there. So I think that all the players are hugely important. But can all the players all be there at once? No, you know, I mean, especially with home visits, so that communication, you know, is a big thing and, and making sure that it’s not just all falling on the parents too, because there’s a lot already on the parents list. So, you know, I can’t be the one that’s making sure that everybody on that early intervention team knows what happened at that last appointment with Madden and somebody else has to make sure that happens, you know.
Staacy Cannon 12:15
So what has been you and your family’s biggest challenge during early intervention? And even after? How do you, how did you work through it? How do you work through it now? And I asked this question, because, you know, Anders went through some early intervention. We had a team of practitioners, and for him, it was a feeding issue. He didn’t want to eat. And so the one resort one solution was for him to get a button and a feeding tube. And I was adamantly against that. And so the next the next option was to go through a team of early interventionists and we expect occupational therapy and physical therapy. And it made a world of difference. But there were times in those 18 months that I, you know, there’s so much going on, Molly, like you were saying, there’s so many people that I had to talk to and then and at the same time care for after 10 years of having my first kid here for another infant and getting back into that routine, that there there were times that he wouldn’t eat and I couldn’t remember all the things that we did at the last session, and I would just start crying like I don’t know what to do here, you know, and others.
Molly Mecka 13:35
So many tears! Yeah, I think um, I think that one of the challenges when you are so overwhelmed, eventually you’re dealing with things like, will your baby eat? Why won’t your baby eat? Your baby needs to eat in order to survive. These are basic primal things that we’re taught or it’s just, you’re born with this innate want to do, right? Like you were born, wanting to eat and be hungry. So when your child does not have that, it’s devastating. It’s man, it’s beyond comprehension for you, like, it makes you want to just bang your head against the wall. And so then on top of it to try to have to remember all of the things that the therapist said to do. And then you try them and then it’s not working. And then it’s just me and I was charting my kid, you know, I mean, all of a sudden you’re not turning into mom anymore. You’re a medical director where you chart and track data, input all of their output, your everything, you keep notes on everything, and you’re like a crazy woman, so I think the challenge is, how do you get that information to the people that need it? And then how do you get that information back from them on what you’re supposed to do with it? And then how do you do it when you’re at your worst – when you’re crying because they spit out the fifth time you tried to feed them that bite and they haven’t had anything of substance today, and you know that they’re losing ounces as you are crying these tears, you know, what can you do in that moment? You know, it all depends on the accessibility of your team too. I was lucky. I had cell phone numbers, I could text people I know and I could text them and they would respond for the most part, but that wasn’t my session time and that wasn’t like you know, that wasn’t them being able to give me anything extra it was just giving me some access to them and then trying to figure out because you got to change things mid course sometimes you know. Mid-stream you’ve got to make changes and it can be hard to do that with the bureaucracy. That’s what you’re dealing with, with big programs, you know. So navigating, needing to make changes or get new resources immediately was also a challenge.
Elise Zavadak 16:17
If there was a way to seek support in the middle of a challenging time, is that something that you would have been interested in or that you would be interested in today?
Molly Mecka 16:25
Absolutely. All the moms that I know and that I talked to that have any sort of issues that they’re working through with their kids, when you are in the thick of it is when you need somebody to help you – to help you get through it and navigate. To not have any way to communicate in the middle is difficult.
Elise Zavadak 16:50
I don’t know. I mean, first of all, for those of you who are listening who don’t know, Anders is Staacy’s son, and as someone who’s not a mother yet, but I would love to share with both of you is that I’m actually completely in this conversation because I’ve seen the way Anders eats now. He has this list of foods that he can eat, but this child is eating like salmon rolls. He’s not eating like much. He is eating this food that I then went to the grocery store and picked up this salmon, picked up the seed and like I’m eating. So I think, hey, that’s a lot of credit to both of you and your families and the work that you put in. But that continually makes me think about how powerful early interventionists can be from the beginning and helping you get through those steps and that’s really, really amazing.
Molly Mecka 17:36
The thing early intervention does that I think is the most important is they empower you as a parent. They’re there to help you have the tools to make the right choices to do the right things to get them in the right programs. Right? So Madden needed physical therapy more, you know, we had a lot of gross motor skills. They were a big deficit for us. They were a big problem. We had a wonderful physical therapist that came to us through early intervention. We could see her once a month, once a month wasn’t going to get him on. What early intervention did for us was say, hey, here’s an area and this is how much we can give you, we can give you this much of the resource, you need probably three times more than that. So this is an area where you should seek some outpatient resources you need, you know, so identifying spots that we could go to get more help from other doctors or other areas in the community was a huge part of what made our early intervention team successful for us. So we would learn to grab whatever resources were thrown at us. Then also take the tips to go and ask for more from other areas. Because they would identify that that was a spot that needs more attention.
Elise Zavadak 19:05
I think I have one more question, it sounds like all of your early intervention providers were extremely helpful, and really powerful and impactful on this journey. But I’m wondering what sets some of your early intervention providers apart from others, like, is there anything that someone did that you’re like, wow, that is something that I wish all of my providers would have done, and I hope I don’t burn you on the spot with this question but is there anything that, because, we’re hopeful that a lot of providers will be listening to this podcast, and I’m wondering what, as a parent, you can say, hey, if you could do XYZ, this I think would be so powerful for families and still powerful for the children that you’re impacting.
Molly Mecka 19:49
That’s a good question. And I don’t know if I have a good answer for that. I think. For me, though, one of the big things is listening to and believing the parents. I think that we know our kids, we know our babies, even if they’re brand new to this world, we have this. We have this sense about what is right and what fits and what’s wrong. And I think that having somebody listen to you and be as serious as a parent, and really take your concerns to heart is, is the most empowering important thing that an early intervention team can do. I think that, you know, some people are given the resource and there might, they might not be that interested. They might not fully comprehend all of the benefits or all of that, but I think that’s a real small percentage. I think the majority of parents that are in this situation that early intervention is involved, they are so desperate for their health and grateful for whatever resources to be offered and they just want to feel empowered to do it. To do what they need to do for their child, you know, and they might not know where to begin. It’s very overwhelming. So I think listening, listening to the parents and giving them an understanding that they know a lot more than what they’re giving credit for sometimes.
Staacy Cannon 21:22
Well, okay, you guys just heard a little bit about Anders. I want to hear about Madd. From the moment I held Madden. The first time I haven’t seen him since he was a baby other than everything on social media. He was magic in my arms. I mean, my whole heart and soul just melted and Molly and Mike are amazing people and were amazing before Madd came into just salt of the earth. And so I just, I would love to hear your stories.
Molly Mecka 21:55
He’s currently very into Star Wars. We are currently trying to expand our use of the force and move things with his mind. But it’s not happening. I can’t understand why. He’s a really great kid. I mean, we struggle, but all parents of five year olds struggle, take your stuff and push back and find them, find their place in the world, but he’s a smart kid. He’s really, really interested in understanding how everything works. I mean, to the point that I cannot answer. Every single night we have to tell him at some point in time, it was time to stop. He’s got a lot to say and a lot that he wants to discover. So we always said he’s here for a reason. He’s got something to do because he wasn’t supposed to make it and here he is. But his reason might be just to drive me crazy! He’s in school. He goes to a private school here in Las Vegas. That’s pretty advanced for him and so he’s in pre K this year, and he’s learning to type words and how to read and how to do some simple math and he loves numbers and he loves science. He’s really into space. He just believes in magic. And that’s, I love that his little mind wants it all to be true. It’s great. A lot of fun.
Staacy Cannon 23:48
Well, Molly, thank you. Is there anything else that you want to discuss?
Molly Mecka 23:53
No, I just, you know, I just think that the more access that people have today to resources and the more understanding that people have that these resources are out there, the better. I feel like so many doors were open for us because of early intervention. And, it changed our mindset on how we deal with all problems with Madd. You know, when something happens, and we have something that needs to be addressed, we want to get to the heart and to the root of it, I should say, you know, we really believe in figuring out where, where the cause is coming from, what’s happening, and not just putting a bandaid on something. And I really think that that comes from early intervention. I think that comes from us, you know, putting in the time in the beginning so that we could have big strides. And I remember our speech therapist in early intervention, she used to tease me all the time, because when we first started speech with her, I said to her, I said ‘Listen, I don’t know what success looks like for me, but whatever it is, that’s what I want, you know, and if that’s not talking, or if that’s not doing these things that we expect as being successful, then I’m okay with that. I just wanted, we just wanted to make sure that whenever we did, we gave him the tools that he needed to have the most success he could have in his life. And she said, okay, you know, okay. And I think in her mind, she was like, this kid was always going to talk. And we got to the end when I graduated with her, and she’s like, you remember thinking this kid wasn’t going to talk and now we can’t shut him up? It speaks to this idea of how important it is to do the things in the beginning. And the sooner that you can get in there and work with these children, the better chances you have for outcomes. And I just think that they’re just such a gift and not everybody understands all the things that they can do. So access to them, and then help to make that home visit and back to their facility and communicating with their team a little more seamless, I think is just so, so important for this success, you know, we have this technology here. So let’s try to utilize it instead of continuing to just churn out the same reams of paperwork and red tape when we can cut through it a little bit with all the amazing resources that we have, you know, technology-wise that we can give to them.
Elise Zavadak 26:37
Well, it was really great to meet you Molly and thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. You know, Stacy had shared like a little tidbit of your story before I talked to you today but I’m just so inspired by all of it. I just really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. So I appreciate you.
Molly Mecka 26:58
Madd really wanted to tell you all “May the force be with you” and thank you so much for having me. Thank you for being part of something that is, I think creating magic for children. And that’s that’s just, it’s really awesome when we can feel good about what we do at the end of the day, really making a difference.
Staacy Cannon 27:23
Thanks, Molly. Thank you.
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