What if the Pediatrician Tells Me That Some Children Just Develop More Slowly?

Children do develop at different rates. Any parent who has had even a casual conversation with other parents on the playground knows that some children develop different skills at different ages. Perhaps your toddler is working gross motor skills and can throw a ball, but doesn’t make much more than scribbles on paper. There are some children who are exceedingly verbal at an early age, and those who develop normally seem, by comparison, to be behind in their language acquisition and use. Comparing children can be dangerous because no two are alike, and parents can get confused or worried by engaging in a compare and contrast with other parents.

Because of these discrepancies in development, there are developmental guidelines for normal childhood development for birth through age 5. It is important to keep in mind that these guidelines are just that: benchmarks for development, not hard and fast rules. Parents should familiarize themselves with these guidelines in order to determine if their child is lacking in certain areas, and then bring their concerns to the attention of their child’s pediatrician.

But what if your pediatrician tells you that children just develop differently and that some are slower than others? This may well be the case: generally, pediatricians have a vast range of experience and have “seen it all” and therefore can be expected to be reliable in their assessment of your child. But there may be more to it than a simple “he’ll catch up.” If you feel there is more going on, then act quickly to advocate for your child.

It can be difficult for parents to question their child’s doctor, but parents must also trust their instincts. A pediatrician, after all, sees a child for a brief time in an artificial setting. Parents, who know their child better than anyone, know how a child behaves on a daily basis and are therefore experts on their own child.

If you have concerns about your child’s development and feel your pediatrician’s assessment is just not right, then follow up with him or her. Review developmental checklists to see whether your child is meeting the milestones for his or her age. If your pediatrician has not performed a routine developmental screening, then ask for one. Pay close attention to and record your child’s behavior at home to determine whether you can detect any specific developmental delays.

Don’t be hesitant to ask for a follow-up appointment in which you can bring your concerns to your pediatrician’s attention. The more specific detail you can share, the better.

Not all developmental delays are indicators of autism, and an autism diagnosis is made only after much more in-depth assessment by a specialist. If you remain concerned that your pediatrician may be missing some of the signs about which you are concerned, then ask for a referral to a specialist.

Trust yourself here: remember that you are the expert on your child and his or her strongest advocate. If you are not convinced that your child’s development will catch up, or that he or she is just developing slowly, don’t be afraid to push for additional testing, referrals, or a second opinion regarding your concerns.

In the case of developmental delays, including autism, early and appropriate intervention can make a world of difference in the life of your child, and obtaining that intervention starts with you.

This entry was posted in Developmental Screening. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.