Is There Something Wrong With My Child?

Is There Something Wrong With My Child, #kids, #parenting, #special-needs
I think every mom at some point has asked herself "is there something wrong with my child?" It may be as an infant when the child is crying and you cannot console them - "Is there something wrong with her? Why won't she stop crying?" It may be when you noticed that your friend's similar aged baby started walking, but your shows no signs of being ready - "Is there something wrong with him? Should he be walking already?" It can be in school, when the majority of the class is reading but your child is not - "Is there something wrong with her? Why is this giving her trouble?"
It's perfectly normal to ask yourself such questions. Most of the time they have a logical answer and turn out to not be that big a deal. The baby wouldn't stop crying because of gas pains, the baby started walking a few months later, the child suddenly became interested in reading. Time and patience usually answer the majority of "Is there something wrong with my child" questions with a "no."
However, there are times where the answer turns out to be yes. Yes, there is an issue. How do you recognize what is an actual problem from the general concerns that all moms struggle with? 
The first thing is to be aware of red flags. Every child will have a few quirks or areas where they are less strong. Taken alone, these are usually not cause for concern. But when you notice a number of behaviors and concerns, it might be time to take a closer look.
My daughter "A" was 15 months old and made no real sounds. She has a twin sister and I wasn't that concerned at first because her twin really didn't talk much either. I just assumed they were both late talkers. But then I started noticing some other troubling signs. "A" could not imitate any sound I made. She could not blow --  Her lips would just not make that motion. She had a difficult time with various textures of food. The list grew by the day. I started writing down the things I was noticing.
When I added all these together, I knew we had a problem. How did I know? The biggest thing was just trusting my instincts. In my experience I have found everything they say about mother's intuition to be true. I had a feeling there was something wrong with A before I started noticing the other signs. Something just seemed off. But I tend to worry (a lot) and well meaning family members assured me that she was most likely just a late talker. Still I had my doubts. 
So when A was 16 months old I scheduled an appointment with her pediatrician and voiced my concerns. He also assured me that she was probably just a late talker and we could revisit the issue again when she turned two if was still not talking. Now I was annoyed. I thought at least the pediatrician would say "it's probably nothing but lets have her looked at." 
I took it upon myself to call the county's early intervention program and have her evaluated. They came to our house and based on my answers to questions and their observations, they determined that she was delayed and did qualify for services. Yay!
At her two year checkup, I switched pediatricians and when I brought up my speech concerns, the new doctor said "That sounds concerning. Lets get an evaluation done." We got an appointment at a highly regarded hospital and saw some wonderful specialists. Shortly before her second birthday, "A" was diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech, which is a motor speech disorder that causes children to have difficulty planning and producing sounds needed for speech. Children are usually not diagnosed so young, but A was evaluated by a leader in the field who said that her symptoms were so obvious, she felt comfortable with the diagnosis. 
"A" continued receiving early intervention services from the county and started private speech therapy three days a week soon after the diagnosis. We did a ton of work with her at home, too. By her third birthday, she no longer qualified for service from the county and she tested out of private speech therapy in December of 2011. She still struggles with a few words and sounds but is light years ahead of where she was. I cannot sing the praises of the county's early intervention services or our speech therapist enough. I am grateful every time I hear her voice.
To summarize, here are the steps you can take if you suspect your child might have an issue.
  1. Be on the lookout for red flags. Document what you are seeing that is concerning you.
  2. Trust your gut. You know your child best and probably spend more time with them than anyone.
  3. Talk to others who know the child. Ask them if they are seeing the same things. Don't let yourself be talked out of your feelings.
  4. Talk to your pediatrician. If you are not satisfied, get a second opinion.
  5. Contact your county's early intervention services if you have a younger child -- or the school district if your child is older.
Hopefully, at this point, you will have a diagnosis or at least have ruled out many things. Whatever the outcome, remember that you are your child's best advocate. A lot of these steps involve numerous calls and follow ups, and one of the things I learned in the process is that no one really cared. It's not that we were dealing with bad people, but if I didn't stay on top of things and keep pestering, A would have been forgotten. Doctors and specialists are busy and it's easy to fall through the cracks.  So be confident in your convictions and do what it takes to get what's needed.
Your child may not be able to say "thank you" yet, and they may never know all you have done behind the scenes to get them the help and services they need. But you'll know. No matter what you may be facing, you'll know you did the best you could for your child. 
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  1. So true that us Mom’s need to trust our instincts about our children. It is wonderful that you provided your daughter with speech therapy at such a young age. Way to Go! ;o)

  2. I saw this post in my reader this morning and knew I wanted to drop by and comment later today. I think getting help is so important, and the younger you can start the easier it is to make a difference! Early intervention is an incredible service - it's on my list of things to blog about, but haven't gotten the right post written, yet!

  3. Good for you for sticking to your guns! Some doctors just don't pay enough attention, although I will try out doctors until I find one who takes time listening.

    I swear by Mama's intuition! I may not be a doctor, and I do need his help frequently with four kids, but I am right 90% of the time. He actually jokes with me and asks me my "diagnosis" before he tells me his. Point is, we know our kids better than anyone, and we should trust that. I would rather be wrong that something wasn't right, then find out later I was right and it be un fixable or worse yet, too late!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. In today's world so many want to share only the pretty parts of life so it is refreshing to see another blogger being real and sharing something hard.

  5. My son was not walking, or even pulling up, by sixteen months. A lot of people said, "Oh, he's just a late walker, my son didn't start walking until 17 months either," but I knew that this was more than just a case of lazy baby; he wasn't cruising or doing any of the pre-walking stuff. I asked his doctor about it, and her opinion was that he was physically sound and strong but that he had low muscle tone and may need some extra help. She offered to refer us to our city's early intervention program, and I took her up on the offer. My son was in physical therapy once a week for about three or four months, and I was able to see a marked improvement every single week. It was incredibly encouraging to speak with experts who reassured me that yes, there was a problem, but we would work on it together and he would be fine. Finally, at nearly 22 months old, my son stood up at his cousin's birthday party and took his first steps all on his own. One of the things, for me, that was difficult about this process were the embarrassingly self-centered feelings of shame and worry, as if I had caused this problem or it somehow reflected on my character. I was intimidated at times by all the questions the specialists asked me, and felt like I was supposed to be preparing my child for admission to Harvard pre-school! My advice is to remember that by advocating for your child's health, you ARE being a good mom. Don't let yourself be distracted by all the ways you feel you don't measure up. That does nothing for you or your child.

  6. What a helpful post! Thanks for sharing your story - it is such a hard thing to ask for help with. So glad you have the help you need to help "A" =-)

  7. It was so good that you continued to search for help even after your doctor said not to worry. It is always best to just get something checked if you are worried about it. Great Tips! Thanks for stopping by True Aim! I am your newest follower.

  8. An insightful post both helpful and encouraging to moms with little ones. My twins were delayed in large motor skills and were evaluated when very young. That was great for so many (30 years) ago.

  9. My son started showing signs by 4-5 months. No rolling, no giggles or babbles, none of the stuff my other four had done. He didn't sit up on his own, crawl, walk or talk by all the normal times. The pediatrician..yeah. He claimed my son was just being lazy. Saywha??? Yeah. At 1 year old the ped said he better be walking by his 1st birthday. I was just hoping he'd be crawling.Fast forward to a visit to the Health Department..I noticed a sign for Early Intervention. I called, they came out, evaluated him and he was started in a preschool program. They sent him for hearing tests, speech therapy and the like. That was at almost age three. He was then transferred to preK at the school. Fast forward to January of this year. We were all sick. I took my kids to the pediatrician's office. He was booked so we saw the Nurse Practitioner. He noticed that my just turned 3 year old was potty trained, but NOT the 5 year old. I mentioned the "other" dr.'s admonition that my son was lazy. N.P. got upset and said "NO. We need to get him evaluated. It should have been done by the time he was 1 year old!" He sent me up to the university hospital and we have gotten no real concrete answers, except that my son is developmentally delayed. No reason why. Just is. It may and it may not be due to the umbilical cord being tied in a true knot at his birth. He had had that knot for many months and could have had oxygen deprivation to some degree. We'll never know. So, my son stays in special education classes, has his physical, occupational and speech therapies at school and LOVES every minute of it! I, too, am grateful for these programs and the people who work them. Without this, I have the feeling that my son would be even further behind than he is.
    BTW: my son just had to get his Kindergarten shots/physical with the knucklehead ped. He chastised my 16yo dd and I for not having my son potty trained! He was giving us the riot act for being lack in our duties and that it was not fair for my son to be going into kindergarten NOT potty trained. That the teachers have more important things to do than to clean up my son. I was so dumbfounded I had no response. I feel that maybe I should confront him, or write him a note or something and explain the REAL reasons why. But then, maybe I shouldn't.

  10. I'm so happy she has made so many strides in her speech! I love how you remind us all that we should trust our instincts.

  11. @Paula, thanks, I don't know why we don't trust ourselves more.

  12. @Maryanne, It is shocking how much difference early intervention can make. I hope you do a post about it. Can't wait to hear your take.

    @Mywildandcrazylife, You are so right! I'd rather be thought of as that crazy, annoying mom and get my kid the help they need. Thanks for stopping by.

    @Cassandra, Thank you, your comment really means a lot. i also find it refreshing when people share their struggles and how they have persevered. You can really connect with someone when they are able to be vulnerable.

  13. @Smoochgator, So glad your son has made so many improvements! Yes, I had the same feelings of wondering if I had done something wrong. I only now realize that I did something right by following my instincts.

  14. @Beth, Thanks, I am hoping others can benefit from reading this.

    @TrueAim, yes, the worst that can happen is that you are wrong.

    @Lorraine, as another mom of twins I am sure you know that it's not uncommon for twins to have delays.

    @Farm Marm, wow, I am so sorry you had to deal with that Dr who seems to have no understanding of your circumstances. You are doing the best you can and so is your son. Keep up the great work!

    @Carolyn, Thank you so much. Her speech seems like a miracle to us.