Your child is 18 months old and isn’t walking. He still crawls around the house and has difficulties pulling himself up from a sitting position.
Your child only has a few words and rarely uses them consistently. You keep comparing your child to other children of the same age. You are becoming more and more worried about your child’s development.
Although you have mentioned your concerns to others, no one else seems to be really concerned.
“Let’s wait and see if he improves in the next few months.”
“I’m sure he will start walking soon!”
“Boys can be slower to develop than girls.”
Unfortunately, as a psychologist, I have heard this story way too many times. While children do develop at different rates, it is important to understand what is considered “normal” and what is considered “delayed.”
Normal development versus delayed development
As a child ages, there are developmental milestones that your child is expected to reach. There is a range around what age your child should be developing certain skills. If your child is not falling within that specified range, it is likely that your child may have a delay in a specific area of development.
Your child can be delayed in a single area of development or many areas of development.
There are five areas that may be affected by a developmental delay:
– Cognitive development
– Social development
– Adaptive development
– Language and communication development
– Motor development
So what’s the best way to determine if your child is delayed?
If you have concerns about your child’s development, the first step is to seek professional advice. One option is to talk with your child’s pediatrician and mention your concerns.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges pediatricians to complete standardized screenings for all children at 9, 18, 24, and 30 months old. If any delays are recognized, a more comprehensive developmental assessment should be completed.
But, there is no need to wait until someone tells you an evaluation is needed. Trust your instincts as a parent and arrange for an evaluation to be completed.
What does a developmental evaluation look like?
A developmental evaluation is usually completed with both the child and the parent in the room. The purpose of this is to make sure that the child feels safe and comfortable, but also to gain information from you – the parent!
A comprehensive evaluation will evaluate your child’s functioning in the domains of motor, social-emotional, cognitive, adaptive, and communication.
Your child will be given some tasks as well. The tasks help to determine what your child is able to do and what your child has difficulties doing in a structured environment. Psychologists understand that your child may perform differently in certain settings though. Because of this, you’ll also be asked many questions during the evaluation about your own observations of your child.
All of the information from the evaluation will be reviewed and interpreted in a standardized way. This means that your child’s results can be compared to other children of the same age.
A quality evaluation will also include a comprehensive written report. This report will discuss your child’s strengths and weaknesses, recommendations, and potential services that may be beneficial for your family.
Why is getting an evaluation so important?
It may be tempting to wait to see if your child’s development progresses with time, but research has shown that the earlier intervention can be started – the better!
Intervention has also been shown to be more effective and less costly when provided earlier in life.
Quality early intervention services have even been shown to have benefits later in a child’s life as well!
How do I find a provider?
Your pediatrician should be able to refer you to a developmental specialist who can complete the evaluation for you.