He’ll grow out of it. That’s what I thought to myself over the months that became years as I continued to see signs something was off with my child. I knew he lagged behind same-age playmates in certain areas but felt sure he would catch up. Maybe we just needed to work harder or I needed to try something different. Sure, some things were off. But were they off enough to warrant testing?
We, moms, are often the first to notice when our child isn’t hitting a developmental milestone or is having difficulty. It might be fine motor skills, a speech issue, a nervous tick or problems at school. Should we wait it out or see a professional? October 1 is Child Health Day. While this post is just a start at the many health issues that can come up in raising kids, these 10 signs can indicate if you have children in need of professional help.
1. Eye gaze
The ability for your baby to make eye contact is one of the first developmental milestones. As the baby grows, he should be able to hold eye contact and follow motion around him. Ask your doctor if you see problems with your child’s gaze.
2. Reciprocal interactions
This early parent-child communication happens when, for instance, a child smiles back at his mother or imitates a sound she makes. Speech pathologist Betty Johnson says at a year old, if a child isn’t returning facial expressions, responding to her name or babbling, parents should be concerned.
3. Delayed speech
Children should use simple words by 18 months. Combining words is another important skill. Johnson says to use the age rule: “If a child is two years old, we expect the child to use two words together. And by 3 years, they should at least be using 3-4 words in a sentence.”
A child who’s developing well but begins to regress in any skill warrants seeking professional help. Cathy’s toddler had been potty trained but began repeatedly wetting her pants. After weeks of frustration, a doctor visit showed the problem was a urinary tract issue, which the doctor helped resolve.
It’s not uncommon for toddlers to repeat words and phrases or use “um” and “uh” as they speak. But when a child at any age is both repeating words or holding out sounds and visibly tense or upset while trying to talk, parents should consult a speech pathologist.
6. Signs of dyslexia
Experts say signs of dyslexia can show up before a child starts grade school. Some of the signs include difficulty tying shoes; speech delays; difficulty learning the alphabet or remembering a home address or phone number; and mixing syllables in long words like caterpillar or begetting.
7. Reading difficulty
Veteran teacher Melanie Harper says most children should be reading by second grade. If a child continues to reverse letters like b and d and can’t remember sight words, the parent should consider professional testing. She urges parents to be open if teachers suggest testing.
8. Sudden disinterest or withdrawal
When a child who is normally engaged shows signs of withdrawing from friends, activities or interests, a parent should be concerned and, if prolonged, should consult a professional.
9. Extreme behavior
Extreme behavior of many kinds can be an indication of an underlying issue. It might be extreme issues with food or sensitivity to clothing. It could be extreme distractability or extreme mood swings.
10. Your maternal instinct
Your gut may be your best indicator. Pediatrician Dr. Kim Dal Porto says, “God gave you a maternal instinct that is greater than you realize.” She says when something seems off with your child even after trying what’s worked before or what trusted friends have advised, to trust that instinct and seek professional help.
Tell us! Was there a time that trusting your maternal instinct paid off?
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