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If You Think Your Child Has a Developmental Delay

Most every mother I've met with a special needs child says she knew, early on, that something wasn't right with her child's intellectual, physical or behavioral development. And most every one of these mothers said she was the one who had to point out the delay to her doctor, and insist that action be taken now rather than later. My experience and theirs has convinced me that mothers really do know best.

  • Tell your doctor about your concerns. Some pediatricians are so focused on the physical—treating illnesses, administering vaccines—that they don't pay much attention to the less “medical” aspects of a child's growth. How many words is your child saying? Does he understand commands? Does she make eye contact? Does he initiate play? The answers to such questions, all of which are included on standard assessment questionnaires, can help you and your doctor determine if your child is on track.
  • Consult with a specialist. Seek an evaluation with a expert, be it a developmental pediatrician, child psychologist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, geneticist or audiologist. Specialists can be found via your doctor, insurance company, the phone book, the Internet and other parents.
  • Consider medical testing. Some behavioral and developmental conditions can be diagnosed through genetic or diagnostic testing. Such testing typically involves a blood draw and lab tests. In some cases, an X-ray or MRI might be prescribed. Your doctor will need to order the specific tests.
  • Do your research. As upsetting as it can be to learn about conditions you'd rather not have to know about, bite the bullet and do some research on the Internet, at the library or in a bookstore.
  • Talk to other moms. If you have concerns about your child's development, seek out the help of mothers you know who are dealing with similar concerns, or have in the past. These women can be great resources, and sources of support.

Melissa Stanton is the author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-tested strategies Stay At Home Guide for Momsfor staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for your kids, published by Seal Press/Perseus Books ( ). Prior to becoming an at-home mother of three, Stanton was a senior editor at LIFE and People magazines. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, Parenting and MotherVerse, among other publications. A New York native, she has a bachelor's degree from Fordham University and a master's in public health/community health education from Hunter College. Stanton is the founder and editor of “ Real Life Support for Moms” ( ). She lives with her family outside of Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2008 Melissa Stanton. Re-printed with permission.