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The Mistake of Denying Your Child’s Developmental Delays

My son was already 5 by the time I had acknowledged his considerable speech delay. I only fully realized it when he was almost out of his most crucial learning stage, and only when his doctor pointed it out during one of his well visits.

Why Early Signs of Developmental Delays were Missed

Axel is my eldest child. His birth was literally the brightest day of my life, tied only with the birth of my second son Idris. I immediately became a parenting zealot. Breastfeeding was the only way. Attachment parenting was a lifestyle, not just a term. And helicopter parenting was taken to new and insane levels.

I am not proud of some of my parenting decisions made with Axel, but I now know that many of those decisions were clouded by my postpartum depression.

To my benefit, I recognized that I was being a little mom-crazy at times. And because I knew this, I often tried to counterbalance it by talking some of my concerns down…all the way down. As you may have already guessed, concerns regarding Axel’s developmental delay was pushed away. Specifically concerns regarding his speech.

I immediately became a parenting zealot. Breastfeeding was the only way. Attachment parenting was a lifestyle, not just a term. And helicopter parenting was taken to new and insane levels.

Axel was on the mark for just about every other milestone. He was walking by the time he was one. His hand-eye coordination was fantastic. Every section of his wellness performance checklist was at or above level…except for his language skills.

He would point to ask for anything he wanted. Still, that was rare, because I prided myself in anticipating his every need before he even anticipated it.

I didn’t ask him to go get anything he needed, because once I was around, I would just get them for him myself (especially as I was overcompensating for working way too much). My husband did the same, as did his child care provider (who was also family). 

Because he was such a perfect, well-behaved, and adorable little angel, he wanted for nothing. But all this coddling of him without giving him verbal guidance and direction resulted in a 5-year-old who couldn’t understand how language worked.

I first noticed that he may have a delay at around his 1-year mark. He was always a very quiet child. But now that I think about, he was too quiet. He never uttered a sound other than to cry. There was no baby babbling that I can recall. No coo-ing. Nothing. He just looked around and observed everything around him. 

I thought this just meant he was a deep thinker. Because, you know, my baby is perfect. Nothing could be a cause of worry.

Facing the Truth about Developmental Delays

Googling the answers didn’t help much. Nor did talking to other parents. The results were always the same. Something was wrong, or nothing at all was wrong. Boys were delayed compared to girls. So many boys would not say a word until they hit some magic age, and all of sudden they were sprouting Shakespeare!

It wasn’t until he was almost 4 one of the doctors at my pediatrician’s office referred him for a speech evaluation. She was new and had never seen him before. And while one of the other doctors there briefly mentioned a concern with the warning to “keep an eye on it” months before, this new doctor immediately moved it to my list of priorities.

The minute she said it, I felt like the absolute worst parent in the entire galaxy. I have yet to have a personal parenting fail top this one. And hope to never have one that does. I am still traumatized about this entire situation…and my son is already a pre-teen.

It took many years of speech evaluations, speech therapy, and school screenings to get my kiddo up to match his grade level. Just a year ago, he was still 1 year behind his peers in language and math. Now, he is at their level for most topics, and above level for a few. 

Many tears, sleepless nights, and stress lines later, we have nowhere else to go but up.

Pay attention to these major speech milestones

It is important to pay logical attention to your kid’s major milestones. These are not set in stone, but if you notice within a month or two that your kid is not meeting a certain area, don’t delay in talking to your pediatrician. And if you get a “sit it out and see” option, consider asking for a referral to a specialist. 

Kids are as unique as snowflakes, and so are their journeys. Just as no two snowflakes are exactly alike, same for the development of each kid.

The major milestones are broken down into four categories:

  • Gross motor skills.
  • Fine motor skills.
  • Language skills.
  • Thinking skills.
  • Social interaction.

Both gross and fine motor skills refer to physical abilities, such as use of the body to walk, jump, open objects and doors, throw and catch a ball, and so on. Questions on thinking skills try to figure out how well your child is able to understand how things work around him (e.g., putting puzzles together, noticing similarities vs. differences, etc.). Questions on social interactions measure how well your child is getting along with others (empathizing with others, understanding social cues, sharing, etc.).

Language skills, which was the greatest challenge, are assessed to measure your child’s ability to understand language. In my experience, challenges with language skills affect every single other area except the motor skills. That’s because understanding how to communicate and how +things work was key to proper social interaction and can also affect the development of thinking skills.

Some of the major milestones for speech broken down according to age below:

AgeSome Language Milestones
2 monthsCoos and gurglesTurns head towards source of sounds
4 monthsBabbles and cries in a different way show hunger
6 monthsUses sound to respond to sounds
Takes turns while “chatting” with parent
Makes constant consonant soundsMakes sounds to show displeasure
9 monthsUnderstands the word “no”
Copies the sounds and gestures of others
Points at thingsMakes lots of different sounds
1 yearResponds to simple requests
Says “mama” and “dada”
Shakes or nods head for “no” or “yes”Mimics what you say
18 monthsCan say a few individual words
Says “no” while shaking head
Point to something he/she wants
8/ yearsPoints to pictures in books
Knows names of people and their body parts
Speaks in 2-4 word sentences
Follows simple instructions
Repeats words that you say
3 yearsFollows 2-3 step instructions
Can name most things they are familiar with
Knows their name, age, and sex
Can be understood by others
Understands words like “in” and “under”
4 yearsKnows basic grammar (like “he” and “she”)
Knows first and last name
Recites songs or poems from memory (like “Itsy Bitsy Spider”)
Tells stories
5 YearsCan be clearly understood
Makes up stories using complete sentences
Uses the future tense (“will”)
Can say full address (and name)
Table of Speech Development Milestones

(Milestones in bold are just the ones that I think are the most important of the group. If your child can do those, chances are, they are meeting the other milestones already, or can be taught to meet them.)

Helpful resources for tracking your child’s milestones

There are many helpful resources out there for tracking your child’s milestones. You can use the CDC website on Developmental Milestones that has a ton of free information and tips for staying on top of your child’s development.

My favorite resource from this site is the milestone checklist. The checklist, which was used to create the milestone table above, is currently a 20-page document that presents a separate checklist for each major childhood age, from 2 months to 5 years of age. Each age’s checklist consists of one page with checkboxes to review and second page with tips on how to help your child meet their milestones.

Another helpful resource is the CDC Milestone Tracker mobile app. The app can be used to track more than one child. It has super helpful videos to show a child meeting their milestones should be doing. It includes tips and activities you can follow to help your child meet their developmental goals, as well as a way to determine if you should be concerned about any delays. You can even track your child’s appointments in the app and share your tracker information with your pediatrician when discussing your child’s development.

Take time to review the information on the site relative to your kid’s ages. There is so much helpful information there, and all at no cost to you.

Lesson Learned

I sure had a difficult time acknowledging my son’s speech delay. Thankfully he is doing so much better today because we jumped right on all of the resources available to us to meet his needs.

Don’t let denial or lack of awareness keep you from helping your child meet important milestones. Use the resources above (milestones in the table, CDC website, checklist, and tracker) to help you stay on top of your child’s developmental needs.

What about you?

Have you had a similar experience? Did you fall into the same trap, or did you take action much earlier?

Comment below and let’s discuss.

3 thoughts on “The Mistake of Denying Your Child’s Developmental Delays

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