Thanks to Lia Tremblay for another great article and resource! See her related article on Getting Help for a Child with a Disability
One of the great joys of parenthood is watching your baby reach her first milestones. But when the typical age for a particular skill has come and gone, and your child doesn’t seem to have it, worry sets in. Here’s a step-by-step guide to figuring out when a delay might need to be addressed, and how.
First, is she really falling behind? All babies develop at different rates, so having a child who is the last in her playgroup to crawl isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a comprehensive listing of the expected milestones and the range of ages in which they generally occur. Give your baby some time. She may be on the late end of the range for crawling, for example, but then surprise you with early words or walking.
If that list doesn’t put your mind at ease, talk to your child’s pediatrician. She has seen a lot of babies reach a lot of milestones, and can help you decide when to be patient and when to take action.
If the delays are still worrisome, schedule an evaluation with your local Infant & Toddler Connection. This is Virginia’s version of Early Intervention, a service provided in each state to identify and treat developmental issues in children up to age 3. This directory can help you find the appropriate contact for your city or county.
At that appointment, providers will evaluate your child according to a thorough checklist of milestones, and you’ll be asked about everything from mealtime habits to playtime preferences. If your child is determined to be sufficiently “behind” in any one area, a course of therapy (physical, occupational, and/or speech-language) will be recommended to help close the gap.
Keep in mind, this is a government-funded service and therefore subject to all the usual differences from one locality to the next. Your friend in Anytown might be getting swift, attentive service for her child, but you might find it frustratingly slow and uncooperative in Whoville. Organizations like The Arc of Virginia are always advocating for improvements to the system — and their meetings are a great place to meet other parents who have “been there, done that.” Check this listing to find the chapter closest to you.
In the meantime, if you choose to bypass Early Intervention and enroll your child in private therapies, you may find the cost quickly adding up. (Even if the therapy is covered by insurance, a $35 copay twice a week for a year adds up to more than $3,500. Yikes!) Depending on the details of your situation, relief may be available—read more about the EDCD Medicaid waiver and how it might help.