Most parents have a few moments of worry about their child's developmental progression. Is he
talking enough? Why isn't he walking? Why does she play alone at playdates? Usually, it is totally
normal. Children learn and grow at different speeds and most everyone is on the same track by
kindergarten. Having been on both sides of this issue - as a parent of a child with delays and as a
preschool special education teacher, I can wholeheartedly say two things:
It is really scary when you think something (even something minor) could be wrong with your child.
Don't delay in getting it addressed. Early intervention works.
There are lots of reasons that young children have delayed development. If you are worried about
your child's development, here are the steps to take:
*Observe you child and write down your concerns. Example: "When I call Charlie's name, he doesn't
*Try to remain rational. Developmental delays can be addressed. Try to refrain from comparing
your child to all the other kids in your playgroup. There will always be that parent that claims their two year old
can read (not normal either and probably not really true).
*Find a developmental checklist (here is a good one from the CDC, with videos). There are multiple
developmental domains, such as social/emotional development, language development, cognitive
development, and motor development. Do you have concerns about one aspect of your child's
development, such as language? Or are you worried about multiple things? Example: Your child
isn't babbling or crawling. Become familiar with the developmental domains so you can have an
educated conversation with your pediatrician.
*Listen to your childcare providers. If your child's preschool teacher is voicing concerns, please listen
and respond. Trust me when I say that teachers do not want to do anything to worry you. If your
child's teacher has a concern, work together to get it addressed. Have the teacher write down what
she is concerned about and specific examples.
*Call your pediatrician or family doctor and request an appointment. When you get there, make sure
you have your written list of concerns. Be honest and try not to downplay your concerns. Remember
that your pediatrician only sees your child for around 15 minutes at a time. Your input is needed for
an accurate assessment, especially if your child is quietly sitting in your lap and the pediatrician isn't
seeing what you're concerned about.
*Remember that pediatricians want to make you feel better. If your pediatrician is suggesting a "wait and see"
course of action and you are still worried, insist on a visit to a developmental pediatrician or other
specialist, such as a speech language pathologist. You can also utilize your local early intervention
network, if your child is a newborn to age 3, or public school system, if your child is aged 3 to 6.
Either will evaluate your child at your request.
*If your child qualifies for any services, start as soon as possible. Study after study have shown that
intervening early in your child's development produces the best possible outcome. My son had
terrible speech issues as a toddler. Because of an anatomical problem with his facial structure, he was
completely unintelligible. This caused much frustration for him because nobody could understand
what he was saying. Tantrums were a regular occurrence, as was hitting and other aggressive
behavior. It took three years of speech therapy to get him on track but now he is a happy healthy
teenager and talks just fine.
*Get as much therapy and intervention as you can. It is perfectly fine to utilize school
therapists/services and also utilize private therapists. My son received speech therapy at school and
also at our local university clinic. He went three times a week for two years. It was lots of driving
and waiting but the payoff was worth it.
It is hard to think something is wrong with your child, but don't bury your head in the
sand. Your job as a parent is to problem solve for your child. There are many reasons for
developmental delays and few of them are your fault. More often than not, there isn't a clear
explanation. The most important thing is to leave no stone unturned when it comes to the health and
happiness of your child.
Let Them Fly!0