Having a baby is a wondrous event. Babies are born every day, yet the birth of a baby is still a unique and special time for every parent. A new child brings joy, excitement, and a sense of hope. All parents have great hopes and expectations for their newborn. They wonder what kind of person their child will be, what types of activities he will enjoy. They ask: will she be a lawyer, a painter or a teacher? So many thoughts about how your child will develop will come up over time.
It's natural to wonder what kind of person your child will turn out to be and hope for the best. What is not so expected is to have to consider what you will do if your child doesn't grow or develop typically. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), one out of every six children is diagnosed with a developmental or behavior problem.
Do you know what to if your child has a delay or disability? It can be both scary and confusing to discover your child may have special needs. However, if your child does have special needs, know that you are not alone. There are many resources and people to help you determine what is best for your child and your family.
Is Baby Developing on Target? As a parent, you naturally monitor your baby's physical growth and development. You keep track of the age at which your baby rolls over, sits up on his own, holds a bottle or cup on his own, and takes her first step. When you take your baby in for regular check-ups, especially for the first few years of life, the doctor will always ask you questions to tell if your baby is reaching "developmental milestones". These kinds of checks are usually done at 9, 18, and 30 months during the well-child checkups. But they can be done at anytime if you have any concerns about your child's development.
The term "developmental milestones" is used by doctors to talk about all types of skills that children should reach within certain age ranges. These milestones cover children's growth in these areas:
Physical (gross and fine motor) skills (sitting up, walking, holding an object); Language and communication skills (understanding what is said, pointing at objects he wants, learning and using words); Self-help skills (able to feed self, dress self, use the toilet); and Social skills (making eye contact, playing with others, wanting to be around others).
Does Your Child Need Help? You know your child better than anyone. As you feed her, hold her, talk to her, you get to know your child's personality and how she responds to what is going on around her. Some children do not like a lot of noise or chatter and some children like certain types of foods more than others. All children are different, just as all adults are different. As you get to know your baby, if there's an issue, you will sense when something is not quite "right".
Children develop at different rates, but there are general guidelines or age markers on when you should get help if your child does not reach some of the typical milestones. If you feel that your child isn't developing typically, seems a bit behind other children his age or hasn't reached any milestones within the typical age ranges, talk to your child's doctor.
Before speaking with your doctor, keep a log or record of your observations and your concerns. Keep a written list or a chart, noting:
• Your Baby’s Age • What your concern is (language, walking, eating, etc.) • Specific times you are noticing your concern, times of day (to see if there is a pattern or connection with times, other people) • Behaviors or concerns when around other people (note if your concerns only occurs in certain situations, around other people, social settings)
Getting the Help You Need When you speak with your doctor, bring your written records. If you are prepared ahead of time, you will be sure not to leave out something important and to make sure all your concerns are heard. Bring copies for your child's doctor to keep.
After talking, the doctor will most likely request medical tests and a full evaluation. You can ask your child's doctor to refer you so that a full developmental evaluation can be done on your child. If your doctor suggests you may want to wait or not to worry, it may be necessary to insist on it. Potential developmental delays or issues should be addressed as soon as possible. Your child's doctor will direct you to your state's Child Find programs to start a formal early intervention identification and evaluation process.
Get Support There are many support services and support groups to help you. Every state has a parent training and information office or agency that serves to help parents of children with disabilities or special needs. If you call your state's office (locate your nearest office by calling toll-free at 1-888-248-0822), they can let you know of the office nearest you. There are many parent support groups to help you as well. These groups are established to help parents go through the often frightening and confusing process of getting their child evaluated and getting the services they need. Other parents may be your biggest support.
Heidi Woodard is a resident of Jamestown, NY. She graduated from Jamestown Community College with honors, and earned an Associates degree in Social Sciences. She also graduated from SUNY Fredonia with highest honors earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She is currently employed with the Chautauqua Child Care Council a service of Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc.