We all know that our children grow and develop on their own timelines, each child at his or her own pace. But sometimes we might watch our child and think, “He just doesn’t seem to be doing things quite like his same-age peers.” We might wonder what’s normal, who we can talk to about developmental issues, and what impact (good and bad) seeking help can have on our children’s lives. So read on to find some answers to the question: “What do I do if I’m concerned about my child’s development?”

At TPK, we believe that every child learns through a variety of teacher- and student-led activities that are centered on building the development of the whole child. Rather than focusing on one area of development; for instance, cognitive functioning (i.e. letter identification, colors, numbers, etc.), we need to understand that every child learns at a different pace across all areas.

These different areas of development include: physical, emotional, social, adaptive (self-help skills), as well as cognitive development. Understanding the developmental milestones of your child’s particular age group is an important step in determining whether there may be a delay. (For a list of developmental milestones specific to your child’s age group, click here and here.)

But you might notice that your child does some things very differently to his or her peers, and you might have questions about whether what you’re seeing is normal. Here are some steps to take if you have questions about your child’s development:

  1. Talk to your child’s pediatrician. Your child’s doctor is often the first person you should talk to about a concern about your child’s development. Be prepared before the visit with specific concerns, examples, and questions. Ask about developmental screening. Be sure to make sure you understand everything that is said and make a follow-up appointment if you feel the doctor doesn’t have enough time
  2. Talk to your child’s teacher. Your child’s teacher can give you a perspective of your child that you don’t get to see at home; surrounded by peers in a structured setting such as school can give a fuller picture of your child
  3. Don’t wait. Oftentimes, we want to give our child the gift of time to see if any of the developmental concerns ‘go away’. And while sometimes this is the case, we know that the best chance of future success is early intervention. Understanding your child’s strengths and weaknesses can only empower you to meet your child’s needs. Child Find is a free service provided from Fairfax County that assesses children between the ages of 20 months and 5 years of age. There, a team of specialists are available to provide feedback on your child based on the concerns you bring to them.

I have had parents who tell me they don’t care much for developmental milestones; that their child will learn at their own pace. Again, while there is some wiggle room to the timeline of the acquiring of certain skills, there is no reason to be afraid to look into reasons behind your child’s delay. I often hear parents say they don’t want their child labeled or pigeon-holed. This is not the purpose of assessing children at a young age. Be reassured! This kind of evaluation is designed to provide information which can be used to help your child.

Often when children go through the Child Find process, if there is a delay found, Fairfax County uses a general term – ‘Developmentally Delayed’ – for those children all the way up to age 6. This means that the process can go forward for services to be offered to your child. Again, be reassured – though the term is broad and may feel like a label, we have watched many children benefit greatly from personalized and caring services from the providers who come to us through Fairfax County.

And the more specialized, targeted care your child receives, the better chance for success. For example, a child who receives speech and language services from the County at an early age will sometimes be found ineligible for services as they enter elementary school, meaning they have achieved a level of success to be able to enter the classroom without any support or specialized services. This is the goal of early childhood intervention; the more we pour into children at an early age, the less they need specific support later in life.

And isn’t this the goal we have as parents: that we equip our children the best we can now while we have them in our care, so that when they move on into adulthood they are ready to face challenges they have before them independently and with confidence? Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Do you still have questions about whether your child might benefit from evaluation or services? Email kkan@truroanglican.com – Kathy is TPK’s Early Childhood Development Specialist.