Developmental Delay: How to cope as a parent

Developmental Delay: How to cope as a parent

Developmental delay in children and how to cope when milestones are not met. Useful links for advice, guidance and professional help.

When our children are born, they are so tiny and perfect. As parents, we do everything that we think we are supposed to do, breastfeeding, babyweaning and wooden toys. Our journey as parents comes with many trials and tribulations from not latching, colic, teething, and nappy rash. Most of these we deal with without missing a beat. However, developmental delay is one that stops us parents in our tracks and knocks us flat.

Skills, like talking, smiling, walking, crawling or sitting unaided, are also known as developmental milestones. These can predictable happen at certain ages for the majority of children. However, for a child with a developmental delay, these milestones either do not happen at all or they are much slower reaching them than expected. 

As parents, we know our children and we know when something is not quite right. They may not be smiling, listening or responding to their name. They may not be sitting, rolling over or crawling. Firstly if you have any concerns, they should be addressed with your health visitor or GP. NHS family support can offer further advice and guidance.

Developmental delay is not your child starting to walk at 18 months when your best friend’s son was walking at 9 months. This is when major milestones are not being achieved by our children. This is when we as parents must step up and seek help for both them and ourselves.

Who can help with developmental delay?

Professional help is always the best place to start for any developmental delay issues. This could be in the form of physiotherapists if your child requires help sitting up, crawling or walking. Speech and language therapists will be able to assess your child and provide advice with regards to speech or language delay. Occupational therapists provide help for those struggling with everyday tasks like dressing or feeding. Educational psychologist if your child needs help with learning or an educational setting.

You need to prepare yourself that the professionals will need to ask questions and carry out developmental assessments to pinpoint the issue and the best course of action for your individual child.

Coping with your feelings When A Development Delay Is Identified

You will have to deal with many feelings, as you navigate a different path than you had pictured with your child. The feelings of failure, the judgment from other parents and the embarrassment. There will be some difficult times ahead, with some very difficult emotions to deal with. Especially those that you have somehow let your child down, that you did or did not do something that you should have. 

This is not the case, a developmental delay may occur for many reasons. These could be genetic conditions such as downs syndrome or complications during pregnancy or birth, like premature birth. Long term illness, family stress or long periods of hospitalization often cause short term delays.

Talking to other parents in a similar situation or that have been through it can provide a way to deal with these emotions. Other parents can also provide great support and valuable information to you at this difficult time. 

Let People In When Dealing With A Development Delay

Just because your mum friends have not been through or are not going through the same experience as you, do not isolate yourself. Arrange the playdates, go for coffee and celebrate the tough job you do of being a mum-especially with the extra challenges that you are dealing with. These ladies will be there to offer support, advice or just listen to you vent your frustration. Now more than ever is when you need the support of other Mums.

Do Not Let A Development Delay Define Them

Simply because your child has not reached one milestone or maybe two, does not mean that they have not achieved any. A developmental delay does not define your child, it is just a page in their story that you will eventually turn. Take joy in what they have achieved and not by what they still have to achieve.

Celebrate who they are, if they have a wicked sense of humour or a death-defying zest for adventure. They may be the kindest soul you have ever encountered. As parents, we have much to learn from our children.

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