The journey to becoming a parent is one of the most beautiful experiences that a person can have. Being a parent is hard work; there’s no diminishing emotional and physical exhaustion that comes with parenting. When my husband and I brought our first child home with us, we immediately felt like adults for the first time. The last time I felt a feeling similar to that was the day after I got married and realized that I was now responsible for another person, but ultimately my husband could take care of himself. Bringing our son home meant that if anything happened to him, it was our fault.
As a mom who also happens to have a son on the autism spectrum, I remember when Jacob was little and seemed to be hitting all the developmental milestones and feeling like I have accomplished parenting success. I was not in charge of when he made those milestones; however, I was still proud that he was not developmentally behind; in some cases, Jacob was ahead; in fact, Jake was the first one from my mommy group to walk, and he was the youngest. Jacob reaching this milestone, made me feel a sense of pride as a new parent.
However, when things started to take a different path, my husband and I felt a sense of panic and overwhelming fear. I felt like a failure.
What kept my sanity and kept my fears under control was my previous knowledge of early intervention therapy. I knew that early intervention is an effective form of treatment. My mental health background has equipped me with the skill to navigate parenting while helping other families know what to look for and what they can do about it.
The majority of fears that plague new parents will turn out to be nothing, and just part of typical child development. However, some things will be a cause for concern. But how do you determine when to proceed with contacting professionals for help, and when do you allow a child to catch up simply? Here are some indicators of when a child will require more.
If your child is having difficulties with understanding the concept of words or they are not responding typically, it’s best first to get their hearing check. Some children experience a delay in speech due to auditory issues. A child can have speech and language delays if they are experiencing hearing loss. For most kids, they pass the screening test at birth; however, some may develop issues later in life.
Once an Audiologist has cleared your child and the issue is not hearing loss, you should take your child to get an assessment and evaluation for speech and language disorder by a speech and language pathologist. Some children experience communication delays with expressive and not receptive or vice versa. Some children with expressive language delay may appear as if they are just quiet by nature or shy.
If your child is not talking or creating sentences, it may be a sign of speech delay. Remember, there is a variety of reasons why a child may have a speech delay. A speech delay does not mean low cognitive skills or function. A child with a speech delay can have average to high IQ. Speech issues are not an indicator of a more significant cognitive delay.
Social-Emotional and Behavioral Delays
Some Children with neurobehavioral issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have behavioral, emotional, and social delays that impede on their ability to adapt well to social settings. When children are younger, this is not as obvious, but as they get older, if you start to notice your child is having a hard time playing well with their peers as the social dynamic of play increases in complexity, this might be time to get them an assessment.
Social play should not require navigation and aid from an adult, but if you find yourself managing playdates and worried about what may go wrong during the playdate, contact a psychologist to set up an assessment. Social and emotional delays can interfere with your child’s propensity to interact well with others and impact their capability to learn.
Getting your child tested for developmental delay will not be a traumatic experience for your child. If the child does not have a delay, you move on with your life, however, if they do have a delay of any kind, you have started early intervention. Early intervention has been proven by research to have the best accuracy of helping the young developing brain to make the most progress. When you start with early intervention, you create the best possible outcome for later and well into adulthood.