Are you afraid your child isn’t normal? Just about every parent has this fear at one time or another. The media reports huge increases in autism rates. There are more and more children being diagnosed with mental disorders like bipolar disorder. Then there’s the preschool and kindergarten teachers telling parents their boys are hyperactive. So what is a parent to do?
I’m going to give you some common sense considerations to help you decide if there is need for intervention.
1. When looking at the benchmarks for development, is your child young or past the average age for that skill? For example, a baby usually learns to sit unsupported between 4 and 9 months. If your baby is not sitting unsupported at 6 months, this is not a sign of possible developmental delay. If however, he is 10 months and still not sitting well, then you should let your pediatrician know and seek further evaluations. Also, if your baby was premature or has had serious medical conditions in the first months of life, he may lag behind developmentally for as long a year and not be considered delayed.
In preschool or kindergarten, if your child is one of the youngest in the class, they may not be able to keep up with classmates. Some classmates may be as much as a year to18 months older because of a growing trend to wait a year to start kindergarten). So consider your child’s age relative to the group they are being compared with.
2. Are you worried because your little one’s not speaking yet? Many who receive this letter are raising children in two or more languages. You may only speak one language to your child, but your maid or babysitter or nursery workers speak one or more different languages to your child. This often delays your child speaking by several months. Then when they do speak, they can speak more than one language. So they may be a little delayed in starting, but will have an advantage later by being multilingual.
For those who are not learning more than one language, here are a few questions to help you see if your child needs further evaluation. Does your child turn towards you when you speak? Can your child follow your verbal directions? Is your child babbling and trying to make different sounds? Is your child making specific sounds to mean something specific (his own ‘language’)? If you can say yes to these questions, your child is not far from ready to begin talking.
If, however, your child was learning to speak, but then stops speaking, see a specialist as soon as possible.
3. Is your boy being compared to girls his age? Many boys are being diagnosed as ADHD merely because they are much more active than girls their age. Boys make friends with other boys by ‘play’ fighting. This is normal. They tend to develop their large muscles before their small muscles. Girls are usually the reverse. Girls learn to self-regulate earlier than most boys. So, if he is not having lots of other symptoms of ADHD, you need not seek further evaluations until he is about 8-9 years of age.
4. What is your gut feeling? Moms seem to have a sixth sense about the welfare of their child. If you are convinced there is something wrong with your child, do not be satisfied with a with a 20 minute well-baby appointment with a GP. You see your baby many hours a day and in many different situations. Ask for a specialist’s consultation. If your doctor won’t give you a referral, get a second opinion from another pediatrician. The sooner any problems are spotted, the better the results from treatment.
If, however, others are worrying about your child, but you have no concern, don’t rush off to have your child tested for learning delays or psychological problems. By all means, do not give your child medications, if you are not sure they are needed and safe. Don’t follow every trend or ad for something to buy to give your child an edge.
Spend as much time as you can with your child. Talk to them about everything you do with them. Listen when they babble and answer back. Read to your child. Make sure they get enough sleep. A sleepy child will not learn as quickly as a well-rested child. Don’t let the TV babysit your child. (They do not learn in the first years of life from television or other electronic devices.) Pray for yourself to be attentive, patient, and consistent. Pray for your child and trust God to help him or her develop well.
If you have concerns you want to discuss, please feel free to email me anytime. I will consider your concerns and search for the best advice.