What To Do If You're Concerned
I see you. Maybe you're a first time mom like me. Maybe you have a few sweet babies, but your youngest seems so different from his older siblings. You may know "the milestones" or you may just have that feeling that your child should be doing more than they currently are.
I've been there. Shortly after I became a mom to my precious son, I started working (providing developmental assessments and speech therapy) with children almost exclusively under the age of three. I was part of an early intervention team trained to recognize delays across all areas of development including social-emotional skills, adaptive skills, and motor skills. I was hyper vigilant about my son's development and worried when I felt my son wasn't meeting his gross motor milestones. Around 8-9 months, I watched as many of my son's peers were crawling, cruising, and even walking. I doubled down on tummy time (which he had ALWAYS hated) and tried to be patient, knowing that all kids are a little different. Then his first birthday started rapidly approaching, and still, NO movement. I decided it was time to call in some backup and scheduled a consultation with a physical therapist.
Consultations are a great option if you have some anxiety or concern, but know it's probably too early to set off alarm with the pediatrician. In our case, I got in touch with a colleague from my early intervention team. She agreed to take a look at him, give us her opinion, and provide some tips for exercises we could practice each day at home. I was so fortunate to have friends that specialized in early development that were willing to help my son and me. If you're thinking, "good for you, but I don't know any early intervention specialists!", do not fear! There are typically an abundance of therapy providers in your area that specialize in pediatrics and can advise you regarding your area of concern, whether it be talking (speech therapy), walking (physical therapy), or global developmental concerns (developmental pediatrician). Many providers also offer either a brief phone consultation or in-person screening for free.
Another excellent option for parents with children under the age of three (in the US), is the state-run early intervention program. While the details of these services vary, every state is mandated by law to provide comprehensive assessments and early intervention services to children demonstrating developing delays. This is a great option because services are typically offered for free or at a reduced rate (sometimes based on income). To find these services in your state, search (state) + (early intervention program) or talk to your pediatrician!
My message to parents: If you are worried about any aspect of your child's development, there is no reason to delay in talking to a professional about that concern. Personally, I didn't want to let that anxiety fester. I wanted to be PROACTIVE if there was something I could be doing that would help my child. Maybe you reach out to talk to someone and they report that your child is right on track and doing just fine- great news! Maybe you reach out to someone and they agree that your child could benefit from a little help. That is what happened in our case and I felt a million times after talking to the physical therapist who was able to educate me and coach me on activities to practice with my son. This lifted my anxiety and EMPOWERED me to help my child. We have continued these physical therapy sessions every other week with an emphasis on parent coaching. This means that the physical therapist trains me, the parent, on exercises that we can practice each day. Shortly after starting these sessions, my son began crawling, and now, at 16 months, he is starting to walk!
We talk a lot about milestones on our website and I truly believe that it is NOT a race. But it is important information! Knowing what to expect can allow you to deal with any concerns early. This is so important because early intervention works and the earlier the better! Little brains are growing fast and children under three have an increased ability to establish the neural connections that allow us to learn new skills. My hope is that talking to someone will also bring ease for you, my fellow mom: ease in knowing how to help your child and ease in knowing that you are doing the best thing for your child's development.
Laura Brown, MA, CCC-SLP
Pediatric Speech Pathologist & Early Interventionist
Fonder, Mommy & Me Milestones