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February 24, 2014 / thegirlwhotooktheleap

“Is my child delayed?”

This is a question I get asked a lot by my mom friends, because they know my profession. And lately, this is a question I have been asking myself, because just like any other mom, I worry and I compare. My son is 12 months old, and he says “dada,” “mama,” and shakes his head consistently for “no.” He is able to respond to his name by turning his head, he imitates actions, he initiates contact by making noises or actions, he takes turns and can wave to “hi” and “bye.” He can pound a toy hammer and presses on the buttons of his toys appropriately. I say those are pretty good accomplishments for his age. But is it enough? He’s standing and walking assisted, but not on his own yet. He hesitates, I can tell he’s getting there, but he’s not ready. He wasn’t even self-feeding until this weekend. Prior to this weekend he has been eating only if I spoonfeed him or if he eats off my hand. He would touch food but he would not put it in his mouth, he would only play with it. With some mom advice I was given, I gave him the larger piece of food and I began to eat off his hand. Somehow this triggered something in him and he started feeding himself, just like that. I felt like he was telling me, “See mommy, I had it in me all along, I was just taking my time. Don’t rush me mommy.” We live in a society where we expect too much from children and we cant let them grow and learn on their own. This weekend my son taught me something, it was that I need to be more patient as a mom, and I need to savor each moment and stage because I know once he self-feeds, I will miss the moments when he depended on me to feed him. I can feel him slowly gaining more independence and courage, and while it makes me so proud, I am also sad because I know he’s growing up! Last Monday, he went down the bed on his own, and he also started using a sippy cup and grabbed my spoon and pretended to eat. Everyday he continues to amaze me with what he picks up and learns just by watching his surroundings.

Despite all his accomplishments, I do see other babies his age who are maybe talking more, eating better or walking unassisted. So is my son behind? Not necessarily. Other children maybe “ahead” in some aspects, but it does not make my son “behind” or “delayed.” It just makes my son an individual who does things in his own time. Milestones are there for a reason, its a general guide, but its not the holy grail.

However, these things need to be taken with a grain of salt. Obviously if my son is almost two and not walking or talking more, then yes I will become concerned and I will seek help from professionals. One personal pet peeve of mine are the typical statements like “Oh my son didn’t talk till he was 3! He’s fine! He will talk when he’s ready!” (said to a mom with a non-verbal 3 year old). While this may be true, there needs to come a time where you need to think about seeking intervention. When there is already an obvious delay, seek help!!! Do not even hesitate, I cannot stress enough the importance of early intervention. And the sooner they seek help, the sooner they can catch up and become dismissed from services. Also, as a mom, I feel like you always have that gut feeling, that maternal instinct. If that is telling you that something isn’t right, tell your pediatrician and find a local SLP. An evaluation from Birth to 3 or EI is more than beneficial. At the very least, they can equip you with language stimulation techniques and help ease your mind. 🙂

So I guess my take home message is this, don’t expect too much too soon, and don’t expect too little too late. Makes sense? Remember that no two children are the same. Everyone develops differently and in their own time, but you also need to know when its time to step in and do something about it. Lastly, talk to your children constantly! Read them books and ask them questions. Sing to them, label everything, narrate your actions. You’ll be amazed at how much they pick up on what you say and do. 🙂

I think ASHA sums it up pretty nicely in this article, its all a matter of determining whether its just a child being a “late bloomer” or if its a language problem. And here’s an excellent article on milestones you can refer to 🙂

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