You notice your child is not quite meeting their milestones as expected.
You see that they are having trouble moving their legs like their same-aged peers, or that they can’t quite vocalize as they should be able to.
Now you’re grappling with the idea of talking to your pediatrician or having them evaluated. You may be thinking:
What if there is something wrong with my child?
What if the doctors diagnose my child with a disability?
It is more likely that your pediatrician will evaluate your child and say, “They’re just a little behind, let’s keep working on it and keep an eye on their growth.” But your hunch may be valid.
The doctors may indeed find that your child has a delay or disability, and would benefit from targeted supports and services.
This can be the most difficult thing to hear as a parent. But it does not have to be.
Whether the diagnosis is a speech delay, developmental delay, physical disability, autism or otherwise, try to remember the following information when considering evaluation and supports for your child.
More information is a good thing.
When considering whether or not your child should be evaluated for a delay or disability, remember that the results may very well show that your child is typically developing.
Evaluations are in no way meant to be harmful or stressful for children. In most cases, your child will simply be playing with doctors or evaluators and will see it as fun.
You will usually either be right there with your child the entire time, or able to watch from nearby. The evaluation will tell you one of two things: either your child is typically developing -- or -- let’s get some extra supports in place to help.
If your child is on track, continue as before! If the results show that you will need some extra supports, now you know, and you and your new team of experts can give your child what they need to be as successful as possible.
Evaluation can be difficult, but there really is no reason not to do it.
Learn how to support your child and act early.
If the results of evaluation do point toward a delay or disability, it is important to remember that you are now one step ahead in getting your child what they need to be as successful as possible.
You took the difficult (yet necessary) step to understand what your child is able to do and what they need in order to continue to grow and develop.
The earlier, the better when thinking about giving your child what they need to successfully grow and develop -- in fact, many children who receive early intervention services need no further help once they start school.
Whether it be physical therapy, speech therapy, or simply extra time to learn and try, it is important to remember that you and your child will now receive the necessary support and services to help them do so.
Build your support network
It is easy to feel alone when you are at Mommy/Daddy and Me classes and you notice your child is not doing what the other children are doing.
It is easy to feel alone when you talk to other parents and none of them are concerned about their children.
Remember, you are not alone!
First and foremost, you have your amazing child -- no less amazing for their diagnosis or needs.
You also have your team: your doctors, therapists, service providers, etc. These people are all here to advocate for you and your child, and help you both learn and grow together.
Finally, you have other families, who have children working on the same skills as yours! It is often helpful to connect with other families through therapy sessions, infant/toddler classes, local children’s events or support groups.
You will be able to find someone who is thinking and wondering the same things you are, and will have an opportunity to learn from and help them as well.
Take a deep breath - your child is going to be ok.
Finally, it’s important to remember that you are doing everything you can for your child, and that is all that you can do.
Do not worry about what other people are thinking. Do not worry about what other parents might say. Think about your child and know that you are taking an important step in ensuring they are as successful as possible.
When you do that, they will be just fine!
Kira is on the Education team at Wunder with 7+ years of experience in early childhood special education and has a passion for creating and delivering effective early childhood curriculum to support the learning of all children.
Kira received her first teaching certificate with her MA in Early Childhood Special Education in Washington, DC, where she served a diverse group of young learners. She now lives in the Philadelphia area, where she serves as an early childhood special education teacher with Philadelphia Public Schools.