17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Child Development 101

Have we gone too far in monitoring our children's development?

My mom recently told me that my younger brother didn't talk until he was almost 4 years old. "Weren't you worried?" I asked. "Not really," she said. "He seemed pretty bright." She was right on. Although still not a very chatty guy, he is a crazy smart computer software engineer who graduated at the top of his high school and college classes.

Today, my brother would have received speech evaluations, hearing tests, maybe even an IQ test. Overall, it's a good thing. There are a lot of positives that can come from early intervention. I know better than most as I help my son conquer his autism. But sometimes I think we are too preoccupied with how our kids are developing and how their development compares to that of their peers.

I am really guilty of such comparisons and using developmental jargon in my speech, especially since Noe's diagnosis.

I was recently on the phone with my mom. She asked what Noe had done that morning. I answered that we had colored pictures and that he has a really great tripod grasp for his age. "Oh," she answered, "That's nice. Did he ENJOY himself?"

Maybe we don't know the names of all of the important child development theorists, but how many of us read and reread our copy of What to Expect The Toddler Years. Agonize that our little Suzy wasn't as social as the other little girl at the playground that day. Constantly compare a younger child's development to that of his older brother. Sign a child up for every class and sport imaginable for fear that she will be left behind?

Even if we don't verbalize our concerns, little people have an uncanny ability to tune into our emotions. My Noe, with a diagnosis that allegedly limits his ability to understand other's emotions, senses when I am worried or stressed.

Around Noe's first birthday, I started feeling very concerned about his development. But it was nothing I could put into words for another year and a half. According to my books, his development was normal. But I worried constantly. It was right around this time that Noe's sleeping patterns became extremely erratic. He could not settle down to sleep and no longer slept through the night. He was more anxious and unhappy than he had ever been before. Coincidence? Maybe. It was only after his diagnosis and after I had a solid therapy program in place for him that my stress level went down and Noe's sleeping habits and mood dramatically improved.

My Child Development 101 Advice: If you have real concerns about your child's development, find appropriate help and leave the diagnostics to the professionals. Treat your child development book like a dictionary, a useful reference book, rather than a Bible to swear and live by. And finally, make it your work to love, nurture and enjoy every minute of your child's fleeting childhood.


  • Jen, I really enjoyed your post. I'm not married and don't have kids yet but I totally amened everything you wrote. You talked to my parents about my 17 year old brother who has autism. I've noticed that Dusty developed at his own pace. In some areas he developed early and in others very slow. In the end he survived. We really just needed to take the time to love him, help him, and work with him at his own pace and not be so focused on what the books said he should be doing. In just a little of over a year he'll be 19, mission age, and I'll be 21. I hope both him and I can serve missions together. We are both working together on Preach My Gospel even though I'm away at college. It's so neat and I have no doubts that he'll be able to serve. To everyone else Dusty has autism that needs to be fixed or cured but people forget that for me he's just my brother and I couldn't imagine him being any other way.
    posted by Blogger Mia at 11/01/2006 12:36:00 PM  

  • Amen!

    My kids are all different and develop differently. While none of them have any learning or other disablities, they have their own quirks.

    #1 talked, walked, and ran at 10 months --potty trained before 3 yrs.
    #2 didn't take a step until 15 months old, and she didn't speak until 17 months old. Potty trained before 3 yrs.
    #3 didn't walk until 14 months, didn't talk until 18 months, and is not potty trained.

    It was hard not to compare them, but I figured it didn't matter, as long as they got there, you know? But I did look for warning signs --I guess that's something that will always be important to do.

    Good post!
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 11/01/2006 12:55:00 PM  

  • Great post Jen. I find it is so hard sometimes to stop comparing your children with others (even your own "others". Finding the balance between noticing things that could be the beginnings of a more serious developmental problem and just letting your kids develop at their own pace can be difficult. I think a lot of it can depend on the types of mothers you surround yourself with. Their energies can either be calming or add to developmental anxiety depending on the group.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 11/01/2006 02:57:00 PM  

  • I get what you are saying. I had a lot of stress for a few years when my son was younger. But I really feel like my "hard work" paid off and things are going really well now (he's 7).
    I don't think he would be in such a good place if I hadn't done things to help him.
    But.....one of the things I specifically did was work on his strengths, not just his weaknesses. So if he was interested in something, or if he loved something, I encouraged it, I did it with him, etc.
    And really when you are trying to draw a child out, it is with the things that they enjoy that you get the most success.
    I think I worry less now. Part of that is acceptance, part of that is seeing the successes so far. Part of it is seeing that my son is so much more than what I could have imagined.
    And then there is my confidence. I can't tell you how great it was to walk into a meeting with 7 or 8 (principal, nurse, school psych, SLP, kindergarten teacher, special support teachers) as he started kindergarten and tell them about my son and get everything I wanted from that meeting.
    Every hour researching, worrying, praying, agonizing and trying was worth it. I just had a 1st grade parent teacher conference where I got all teary thanking my child's teacher for everything she does...and she got all teary too.
    Being your child's advocate it a big job and takes practice.
    I do however believe that you cannot properly help your child if their "development" is the only thing that matters. Parenting requires raising them and taking care of the whole person--from home life to spiritual growth to emotional well being to physical health to reaching intellectual potential to social skills. It is all encompassing, and ignoring some aspects in favor of others is harmful.
    posted by Anonymous JKS at 11/01/2006 07:31:00 PM  

  • Our second daughter has Down Syndrome and because of some problems is severely "delayed." I don't really compare her to our other two, but I find myself comparing her to other kids with Down Syndrome. I don't know why I do that. When I focus on her and what she can do - one step at a time - it is much better. Each milestone that she reaches is a cause for much celebration in our family.

    I can say that, like Jen, I know the technical terms for things that dd does that I never had a clue about before. Even dd1, who is 4, can rattle off dd2's medical history to the doctors and therapists. Because of the things we've gone through with her, we are much more aware of things with the other kids. Our son is 6 months old and has torticollis. I wouldn't even have been aware of it, if we hadn't been through so much with dd2 (and if her therapist hadn't noticed it as well :)).

    I guess the whole point of this comment is to just celebrate each accomplishment your children make, whether it's at the "right time" or not, but to also be aware of things that might need to be checked out by a professional.
    posted by Blogger Namona at 11/01/2006 08:50:00 PM  

  • This is a very interesting post and so well written (as usual Jen).
    As my son is still a young baby all I seem to base his development on is physical milestones. Seems like this is the easy part. Can he crawl: yes or no? Can he roll: yes or no? They are all easy answers. I am sure it gets significantly harder to discern whether or not there is a real problem when you are questioning their emotional, intellectual, and spiritual development.
    I will hopefully remember your insight and perspective when I am faced with those issues.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 11/02/2006 01:34:00 PM  

  • Jen...thanks for the post. I am completely guilty of comparing my daughters to each other. I think that I mostly do it in a spirit of AWE and less COMPARISON..meaning:

    I was so accustomed/used to my first daughter and her pace and development, and now the second daughter is different and so I am like: WOW....I didn't realize this could be done another way!

    Compared to older sister Pukey, Poopy is a lot faster in her physical development (jumping, running, somersaulting), and slower in her speech and overall communication. It is fascinating to watch...and I am learning early on that I have to approach th parenting/development of them on an individual basis most of the time.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 11/03/2006 07:37:00 AM  

  • I have to agree wtih Kage - I'm kind of the same way with my two. They have some personality similarities but at the end of the day they are very different people. I expected my daughter to be a chatterbox like her older brother early on...but she isn't. She's more even tempered and is just in the last few months finding her voice and words - very different from my son. And I know it sounds silly, but I'm learnign that different isn't bad, its just different and I have to adjust my skills and expectations accordingly.

    And as far as being clued into a developmental issues,I think it helps when there are other people observing/interacting with your child - family members, friends, teachers, ward members. Because they will pick up on things you may be too entrenched in to notice or are so tired of dealing with...
    posted by Blogger chloe at 11/03/2006 08:44:00 AM  

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