When Your Kid Seems Different

You've probably been told not to compare your child with anyone else's. But when she really seems to be lagging behind other kids, it's important to get her the help she needs quickly.

I can still remember how our daughter's new pediatrician slightly rolled her eyes. I had just explained that we'd left Eva's first doctor because he wouldn't take our concerns seriously. At 18 months, Eva still seemed unsteady on her feet, and she drooled a lot. For months, my husband and I had been worrying about these and other subtle signs that something was wrong. Otherwise, Eva was a bright and happy child, and she looked perfectly normal sitting on the exam table. "I'm sure she's fine," the doctor said as she led us to a stairway and asked Eva to climb a few steps. Unable to tackle the first step, Eva dropped to her hands and knees and struggled to pull herself up.

That's when the pediatrician's expression changed to one of surprise and concern. "I'll admit, I thought you were another neurotic new parent," she said. I don't know if I was more relieved or frightened. She referred us to a pediatric neurologist, who diagnosed Eva with hypotonia -- a lack of normal muscle tone that was most likely related to oxygen deprivation during her difficult birth. We were told that it would affect not only her ability to walk and run but also her speech and fine motor skills speech and fine motor skills such as drawing, writing, and using scissors. Fortunately, by the time Eva started kindergarten, she had largely caught up with her peers -- thanks to two and a half years of physical, occupational, and speech therapy provided by our state's Early Intervention Program.

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