Being the parent of a special needs child truly give you a unique perspective on a multitude of things. Before I had my daughter, doctors were god-like. If there were anything to be concerned about health-wise, a doctor could fix it or would, at the very least, recognize it. Clearly, I was not alone in my former misconceptions as I frequently have folks who don’t know me assume that I’m not doing my part as a parent when they learn that my daughter’s special needs are still undiagnosed at age six. If I were taking her to the doctor regularly, of course it would be figured out by now, right? The truth is, even the best doctors can’t possibly know everything, and they are just as human and fallible as the rest of us. Long story short, even good doctors can’t have all the answers and/or sometimes make mistakes.
The great thing about the internet is that moms are more connected than ever before, and we have an incredibly comprehensive database of information at our fingertips. If our parents wanted to know if we were falling behind developmentally or doing something out of the ordinary, they’d have to seek that information out from their pediatrician. Now we need only do a Google search. Online baby/birth clubs like BabyCenter, The Bump, and Cafe Mom mean that we can log in, ask a question about our child, and receive answers from moms who are or have been there within seconds! Still, some things never change—there is nothing better than good ol’ mom gut. Doctors, Google, and other moms may be a good resource, but that doesn’t mean they always know best.
One of the hardest things as a mom who has been there is to watch a child whom you are certain has developmental delays fall through the cracks. If the child’s mother is not a close friend, I feel like it’s not necessarily my place to say anything. Maybe well-meaning friends are telling his/her mom what they want to hear. “Oh, don’t worry! He’ll catch up! Every child is different.” Maybe it’s their pediatrician telling them, “Plenty of children don’t talk until age two. Let’s wait and see…” What I want to tell that mom (and possibly can’t) is, “PLEASE! Seek an evaluation from a developmental professional! I’ve been you.” Asking for an evaluation means facing a reality that, perhaps, you’re not prepared to face. I can’t blame you for your emotions because I know that that unknown feels scary. However, I can tell you from experience—it’s always better not to let your fear cause you to do a disservice to your child.
There is literally nothing to lose in seeking out an evaluation (except a little of your time) and everything to gain. According to The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, “Decades of rigorous research show that children’s earliest experiences play a critical role in brain development.” The earlier a developmental delay is caught and addressed, the better the long term outcome for your child. Early Intervention services are available through a nationwide program—though it may look a little different from state to state. (If you are local, our program is TEIS.) This service will provide an avenue for your child to be independently evaluated by developmental professionals, and—if needed—provide services to aid your child’s development.
So, please, if something is nagging you about your child, seek a second doctor’s opinion, or get an independent developmental evaluation. It is not my intention to create fear in anyone. What I want you to take away from this post, no matter if you suspect your child has a delay or not, is to trust your gut. You are a rockstar mom and, at the end of the day, YOU are the expert on YOUR child.