I will never forget waiting to hear the nurse say how big my children were after giving birth to them. I expected to hear an inflated number because it felt like I had just given birth to a baby elephant every time.

Some of the first pieces of information we receive about our children after birth are developmentally-based . . . their weight and height. Vision, hearing, and other tests follow. We wait to hear the report from each one and wonder if there are any concerns. 

As time goes on, our children grow and our questions do as well.

Would I even know if my child has a developmental delay?

Most families receive information about their children’s development from pediatricians, child care workers, specialists, family members, and friends who may be knowledgeable about what children should be able to do based on their age.

At a 6-month appointment, a pediatrician might ask, “Can your baby roll over from his back to his tummy?” or “Can she look when you call her name?” These questions help the doctor to determine if your child is progressing as expected. They also want to ensure that your child is not at risk of developing health issues by asking questions like, “Does your baby’s primary water source contain fluoride?”

Child care providers also assist families in tracking their child’s progress. Child care teachers assess how children are growing and developing over time. These assessments can be formal and informal. 

Parents, family members and friends also serve as key agents in identifying growth and gaps in development. Parents/caregivers can sign up for programs like Ages & Stages to assist in tracking progress.

How has the pandemic affected early identification of special needs?

Children learn a lot from each other simply by watching each other and playing together. Additionally, families learn a lot when their children play with other children. 

Due to child care disruptions and quarantining, some of our youngest learners have not been able to have regular social engagement with other kids their age. Since normal opportunities to interact have been interrupted, it can be difficult to know if there is a delay that needs to be addressed or if it is simply a result of limited interactions.

How will I know if it is slower development due to circumstances or an unidentified disability?

Trusting your gut goes a long way. If you have concerns about your child’s development, you can:

  • Continue to watch your child and take note of any issues that concern you.
  • Talk with your child’s pediatrician. 
  • Consult your child’s support circle (family, teachers, and friends).
  • Seek additional professional guidance to see if your child needs support.

How can I join an initiative to advocate for young children with disabilities?

We are launching Next Steps to work with families and advocates to support early learners who have disabilities or who may need special education services in the future. We are leading this effort in collaboration with Play Cousins Collective and JackBeNimble.

If you are interested in being connected with Next Steps, please take a moment to complete this brief survey.