By Sheena Lall, LGPC
It is inevitable, you get to the playground and you see kids around you doing things you didn’t think about doing with your child. You know you aren’t supposed to compare, but you can’t help yourself and then it comes tumbling out of your mouth, “How old is your child?” You go home and tell your trusted village members, “Today I saw a child the same age as our angel doing xyz.” The responses are exactly what you expect - all babies are different, they will get there one day, you can’t compare…blah blah blah. You hear them, and you know they are right, but what should your child be doing?
What exactly is normal and how do you know if your child falls into that category? Don’t discount those regular responses, because they are true, all babies are different and all babies progress at different paces. However, some general milestones can and should be met by certain ages. These are generally where your child should be and it is okay if it happens a little faster or slower than outlined.
The CDC has an app, a checklist, and just regular old printable handouts that you can print and keep on the fridge. There are also videos so you can see exactly what each milestone should look like. If your child is meeting their milestones, congratulations!
But, what happens if you see something you are concerned about? This can be a long and difficult process, so here are some things that can help. The journey starts with reaching out to others and expressing your concern. A great place to start is your pediatrician. They can let you know how valid your concern is and refer you to necessary specialists.
Early intervention programs exist in every state and territory for children who are younger than age 3. They offer services and supports for babies and families of babies with developmental delays and disabilities. This includes physical therapists, speech therapists, and other services based on your needs. A doctor’s referral is not necessary.
What if your child is over 3? Help is available through local public schools. Read more about how to get in touch with a special education service. Here is the website to help you move through the public school system: https://www.parentcenterhub.org/preschoolers/
It is so important for you to take some time out to feel all the feelings you are having. It is so common to turn on ourselves and think- what did we do wrong? You might spend time (when you should be sleeping) thinking of what you did “wrong” and what you should have done instead. Let me stop you right there. Showing yourself grace is so important at this moment. Use your village to help you replenish the energy you need to sustain yourself and your child. Surround yourself with your strongest supporters, because you will need them. You need to manage life and fall apart at the same time. The only way to do that is to have loved ones near to help you when you need a break or a moment to break down. Make sure you are starting at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs- that means sleep, eat, and drink water.
Finally- be proactive and patient. This system is neither fast nor efficient. And for a Black family, it has proven to be even slower and less efficient. Trust your instincts. You are your child’s number one supporter. Doctors care, yes, but they are caring for so many that you have to be the one to get your child seen and cared for the way you know they deserve. This is where your patience comes in. You may have to spend HOURS on hold waiting for someone to tell you there is no room for you to be seen. You may have to call back every single day waiting for a cancellation. Just remember, your little one is worth every frustrating encounter.
You are your child’s best advocate and you are not alone. Be strong when you can, and weak when you need to be. Lean on your village and love on your child.