Your Late Bloomer

Don't worry if your child doesn't walk or talk on schedule.

Introduction

Many parents whose babies aren't developing as fast as most spend countless hours worrying that their children aren't "normal." But the truth is that the developmental achievements in parenting books are just loose guidelines, and there's actually a large window of time for babies to develop each particular skill.

According to experts, most kids have caught up with one another by age 3, leaving little distinction between the early birds and the late bloomers. Once they're 5, you probably couldn't spot a late bloomer if you tripped over one. In fact, studies of older children who were late bloomers show that almost all go on to do just as well as their peers in school and in organized sports.

Of course, if you have any concerns about your child's development, you should bring it up with the pediatrician. In some instances, being "behind schedule" indicates a need for speech, occupational, or physical therapy. Alert your pediatrician if your child hasn't mastered a skill by the outside window of normal range:

  • 5 months and hasn't rolled over
  • 8 months and can't sit up (with support)
  • 12 months and isn't interested in self-feeding or scribbling with a crayon
  • 18 months and isn't walking
  • 2 years and hasn't uttered his first word

Other things to watch for are asymmetry (for example, a baby only reaches with the right hand or seems to drag the right leg) or the loss of skills that the baby had already attained, notes Andrea McCoy, MD, director of primary care at Temple University Children's Medical Center.

It's worth noting that preemies will often not meet the milestones their chronological age suggests, and multiples are often late talkers because they converse back and forth in their own language (which they understand and no one else does).

But you should find it reassuring to know that severe developmental abnormalities are often fairly obvious and generally aren't limited to slight delays in overall development. There are usually multiple areas of delay, and the baby doesn't make slow and steady progress, notes Dr. McCoy. So why do some babies follow a slightly different timetable than their siblings or peers? A range of factors influence your child's development. Read on for some of the most significant.

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