By Guest Blogger Sarah Scott
What is a developmental delay? A developmental delay is when a child does not reach their developmental milestones at the expected times. Sometimes it can be an ongoing or major delay and sometime it is minor, yet still significant. However, if your child has a temporary lag in development, this is not typically called a developmental delay. Delays can occur in one or several areas of development: including, physical (gross or fine motor skills), language, social, or cognitive.
I have a background in teaching Special Education, a Masters in Special Education from The University of Virginia, and several years of teaching experience working with children with developmental delays in public and private schools. So for our situation, I almost knew too much. I knew right away that our son may be facing some challenges. He was born prematurely due to my complications with preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. For the first six months of his life I was on watch for any signs of delay. He was quick to roll over and matched most of his peers with this milestone; however had difficulty learning to crawl and pull up. I began to notice that whenever he was in an upright position he was extremely anxious. He would cry, scream, and shake in fear. When David reached fifteen months and still preferred crawling and showed no interest in walking, I knew we would need to look into this a bit further.
He was referred for a PT evaluation by his pediatrician before Thanksgiving and qualified for services almost immediately. What happened over the next few months was very intense! During every session he was pushed to his limits and would cry, scream, and shake in fear. It was really hard to experience. The real work continued at home, where I set up a “home gym” and made it our top priority to practice specific exercises the physical therapist gave us to work on. It was eventually determined that David has a “vestibular processing issue” and that he struggles and has great anxiety with balance and certain movements. We were told that he would have this issue for life but would learn to manage it with therapy. We designed some goals that David would work on over the next five months and work he did! Our little champion began walking at 19 months, surrounded by his friends at the PT gym, cheering him on. At 20 months, he began occupational therapy, helping him with fine motor skills, movement, and feeding skills. He is now undergoing a speech and language evaluation and will most likely qualify for those services as well.
It has been a long road and we still have things to work on but I know that it could be worse. Our little man is happy, healthy, and strong. I always try to focus on this simple truth when David has a difficult day. Since he was initially referred we’ve seen many close friends move on. I think this is one of the most difficult challenges of having a child with a delay. Seeing my son lose friends (and myself as well) because he simply “can’t keep up” just broke my heart. I began to realize that some people simply don’t tolerate difference. Once we shared our story, the play date invites dwindled; no more calls, no more e-mails, just silence, without explanation. Luckily, there are many warm, loving, and supportive souls in our lives who have stayed by our side as we continue to work though all of these challenges. Despite my relentless positivity, I admit that it can be lonely sometimes when we have to practice our skills at home, attend therapy sessions instead of having fun with our friends, or simply aren’t invited to certain play dates.
However, most of the time, I just sit back and bask in the glow of my son’s brilliant shine. I think about how small he was when he was born and how despite his preemie size I felt like I was holding my entire world in my hands. I think about the NICU days, all of the worry, the fears I had about his anxiety with walking, putting his little legs in braces for the first time, and I am reminded of just how far we’ve come.
Here’s the truth about today: Our son has learned at a very young age that in this life we must work hard for the things we want. He will carry these lessons with him through his school years and beyond. He will never struggle with a sense of entitlement. He’ll know better. I think about how strong he is at such a young age, maybe he is even the strongest person I know or will ever know. It’s humbling to realize that your child is your greatest teacher. I think about how he is our miracle boy in every way, how he keeps leaving each doubter’s doubt behind him in a trail of dust. His smile can light up a room, his laughter can bring hope to the masses, and his spirit is unwavering. To our little David, there are no outsiders, underdogs, misfits; only friends. I know with great certainty that “different” isn’t something to fear or turn our backs on; to us and to our family and friends, different is beautiful.