How to Tell if Your Child is Delayed
As a mom of four kids, I have found that each child is different. Yeah, the experts all say that, but it is hard to believe when you only have one. It is so easy to compare your child to everyone else's and parents tend to have minor bragging contests when it comes to their children's development, making it very difficult to determine what is true or not.
So, how can you tell if your child is delayed or if their behavior is within the normal range? I have kids all over the board when it comes to what is normal. I have a very advanced child and a fairly delayed child, along with two kids in between. Nothing I am talking about here is scientific, but just my experiences. I hope that my experiences help others moms and dads decide if their kids need to be evaluated for possible delays.
First of all, realize that there is typically a wide range of normal. Some kids walk at 9 months, some walk at 18 months. Both would be considered normal. Some kids talk at one year old and some wait until they are three or four. Whether this is caused by a delay of some sort or just your child being a late bloomer is for you and your doctor to decide. I have found that if a child is late developing in just one area, it probably doesn't mean anything. If there are numerous areas that your child is behind in or an obvious reason for a delay then the chances of a true developmental delay are greater. For example, my son had repeated ear infections from three months on. There was an obvious reason for his speech delay - damage to his ears resulting in hearing loss. As my third child and only 20 months old at the time, had he had no ear infections, doctors would have written it off as nothing for awhile longer. As it was it took months of speech therapy to get our first word, years after most kids talk.
There are just so many factors in determining if something is truly a developmental delay. I really liked the What to Expect Books in helping me determine whether something was normal or if I needed to talk further with my doctor about it. What to Expect the First Year and What to Expect the Toddler Years were both very helpful to me as a mom. In fact, even though my youngest is five now, I still refer to it at times. These books give you the normal range for most behaviors and skills. Rather than going to the doctor over every worry, I could read up on it in the book and in most cases, reassure myself that my child was normal.
My first child was a boy, my second child was a girl, my third a boy and my fourth a girl. By the time my third child was born, I had one of each and felt like I knew exactly what to expect. So it was pretty obvious to me right from the start that he was different. I couldn't put my finger on what at the time, but I knew that things were different with him. It turns out he has all sorts of delays that they have yet to pinpoint a diagnosis for - and he is now seven.
My main piece of advice for you is to trust your gut and your instincts. As a mom you can tell if something doesn't seem right. It is healthy to compare your child a little bit to other kids your child's age. This is one of the ways you can tell if your child is truly delayed. Don't obsess over it, but pay attention. Don't compare your child to the extreme's on any issue (like the child who sat up at 3 months), but compare them overall to groups of kids your child's age. This will give you a good idea of whether your child is in the normal range. If every other child in your playgroup of ten kids has been talking for months now and your child still hasn't said his first word, talk to your doctor.
Early intervention is the key - if there really is a problem. Talk to your doctor if you are getting red flags in certain areas. The chances are good that it is probably nothing, but trust your instinct and talk to your doctor if you really are concerned. You have to do what you think is best for your child. If you think something is wrong, push to find out what and get the help you need. The chances will be better for your child to overcome it.