Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
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:
Image of mom on beach holding girl via Shutterstock