Get help right away if your child is falling behind
Developmental milestones are tricky. There’s a sequence children go through as they learn skills, but they’re all on their own timetables. Parents can get competitive: “My child started walking at 9 months; your child was 13 months old.” Nine to 17 months are all in the normal range; by the time the child is 5, no one can tell when he took his first step.
On the other hand, before a child can walk, she must first sit up, crawl, bounce and pull herself up on a piece of furniture. If one of those steps is missed, she will not master walking. In the same way, a baby must first listen to and process sounds, pick out his own native tongue, organize the sounds in his brain and gurgle before he can say his first words.
It’s good to check the expected milestones to see if your child is falling drastically behind in any area. Find them at your pediatrician’s office, at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones), or in a brochure entitled “Please Ask: Babies Can’t Wait” (distributed through many doctor’s offices and clinics and online at del.wa.gov/publications/development/docs/22-889.pdf). Many child-care providers or preschool teachers are trained to spot when milestones are not being met.
The urgency is that if a problem is discovered quickly, early intervention can often correct it or make it manageable before a child goes to school and fails. “In some cultures there’s a stigma if a child is behind, and a reluctance to bring it to anyone’s attention,” notes Cheryl DiNovi of the Denise Louie Education Center in Seattle. “Speech delay is a huge area where we can help with early intervention,” she adds. Children on the autism spectrum can be taught social skills most effectively when younger than 5.
Who Should You Call?
Children younger than 3: the state Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or your county health department or local school district.
Children 3 and older: the special education office of your local school district or Scott Raub, Special Education Parent Liaison in the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, at 360-725-6075.