If Your Child Has Developmental Delays: 5 Reasons Not To Freak Out

So your child has developmental delays. I know how you feel, I do, because my child has had significant ones. Max had a stroke at birth that put him at risk for major issues, everything from not walking to not talking. Doctors didn’t leave us with a whole lot of hope. But more than any other time in my life, I needed that hope—so I could be at my most inspired to help my son and not be a walking ball of despair, which would have done nobody any good.

I found that hope. I found help for Max. And most of all, I found that developmental delays were not a predictor of what my son was capable of: He has amazed us all.

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. To help increase your awareness about why you shouldn’t let the delays get you down, I’m sharing info and inspiration that I hope will bring you comfort. These are reasons not to freak if your child has developmental delays:

1. Because you’ve discovered the delays.

Consider this: Every year, 1.45 million children with disabilities under the age 5 go undiagnosed, according to the most recent Easter Seals’ state-by-state report on Early Intervention. These kids enter kindergarten with delays, the report notes, that put them behind their peers. So it’s very good that you, your pediatrician or both have realized that your child has delays now, even though it might not seem like A Good Thing. This is because….

2. Because children’s brains are impressionable and malleable.

As the Easter Seals’ report points out, young children’s learning and health difficulties “are often completely treatable.” When Max was in the NICU, a kind pediatric neurologist sat me and my husband down and explained all about the “plasticity” of babies’ brains, and how they can have the power to regenerate. This makes total sense, when you think about it: Their little brains are still in formation, and have so much potential.

3. Because you have resources.

Early Intervention was a godsend for our family. Every day, a speech, occupational or physical therapist would come to the house to help Max, sometimes two in one day. They literally taught him how to move his legs and hands. They coaxed sounds out of him. They showed me how to best help Max. I can still picture Mindy, his physical therapist, grasping Max’s chunky little legs and moving them one in front of the other.

I recently heard about a Canadian province where government officials planned to make changes to Early Intervention, including switching around therapists. Local mother Sarah Robichaud Smith-Stewart started a Facebook group, and numerous parents left stories about how EI had helped their children. Mom Nicole Bellefleur Valdron had this to say about her son’s therapist: “Being first time parents, we had no previous experiences to draw from, and we especially were not prepared for the road ahead of us. Maggie has helped guide us through some very difficult times and has been an amazing source of support and knowledge.”

4. Because there is comfort in numbers.

Every year, more than a million children receive Early Intervention Services. Clearly, your child is not alone, even though it may feel that way at times. It helps to connect with other moms via blogs and online groups, for both perspective and virtual hugs.

5. Because there is no rush to the finish line.

It’s hard not to compare your child to typically-developing kids, whether you do it at the playground or birthday parties, or you obsessively read developmental books and information on sites. I used to do this, too, and it was torture. Finally, I put away the What To Expect: The First Year book and accepted that Max was on his own timeline. Once I realized that, everything got a little easier. And when he walked at three years old, and said his first words at five, my husband and I could have cared less about delays; all we wanted to do was celebrate.

From my other blog:

A word to new moms of kids with special needs

Image of mom on beach holding girl via Shutterstock

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  1. by Kim

    On March 12, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    My daughter was diagnosed with a variety of developmental delays at age 4. Due to many years of intervention, she made it through high school, and will graduate college this May. Does she still have difficulties? Of course she does. But she has never let that hinder her in any way. I am so proud of the person she’s become and is becoming. She will accomplish her goals, because nobody ever put limitations on what she could achieve.

  2. by Hira

    On March 12, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    My son is 3 and half and it kills me when I go out and see other kids doing so many things and he is still learning to stand.
    This is hard to manage .

  3. by Erin

    On March 13, 2013 at 6:10 am

    My son is two and a former 29 weeker. We found out at one month of age that he has significant brain abnormalities. The neurologists told us he may never walk or talk. Well, he’s running now and making all sorts of sounds as well as some “words.” His doctors and therapists are amazed that he’s doing things “he shouldn’t be able to do.” Well, no one told him he couldn’t do it!!! The brain is an awesome organ and no one can tell you what’s going to happen tomorrow or the next day or years from now. As long as you don’t give up on that child and don’t set a limit on what they “can do” or “should do,” the sky’s the limit.

  4. by Teresa Hart

    On March 13, 2013 at 6:51 am

    your words are an encouragement. i have struggled with your last suggestion of “not rushing to the finish line” because i looked around at other children, and because family members would ask what is wrong and is the therapy going to “fix” the problem. my son’s therapists have been so amazing i can’t thank them enough and i look forward to seeing my son grow in whatever way he does…he is amazing :)

  5. [...] this again. And yet, I know it’s no reason to panic. And a fabulously articulated blog post here by Ellen Seidman, a special needs mom and author of Love That Max (and so much more) reminded me [...]

  6. by Gilberto Maldonado

    On March 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Hola soy Gilberto Maldonado y me gustaria saber como hacer para rrecibir ayuda de un ninio que tiene 3 anios de edad y padece de Developmental Delays yo personalmente le ayudo economicamente pero el y la madre no tiene como ayudarse y me gustaria ayudarle mas de lo que ya puedo pero no se como hacerlo por favor si entienden mi mensaje respondame, gracias yo vivo en la ciudad de Chicago y el ninio con su madre viven en Guatemala en un departamento que se llama Izabal gracias y espero su rrespuesta….

  7. by Noor

    On March 20, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Loved the article and i could relate to each and every word you wrote as having a 4 year old Cerebral Palsy child, its tough especialy when you see the other kids going around their normal routines.

  8. by Amy

    On March 28, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    What a great post, thank you! I printed it and hung it up next to my desk. I have a 10-month-old who had a very similar birth story to Max, so we’re in the middle of the wait-and-see combined with an aggressive early intervention program. It’s so easy to freak out completely, but your blog is helping me to center myself so I can try to be the best mom possible for my children.