Experts today agree that when a child has a delay in their development the sooner they can receive help the more likely their development will improve and the more likely they will feel good about themselves. This was a lesson I had to learn the hard way.
When I gave birth to my daughter, I was overwhelmed with joy at seeing how perfect she was: all the right number of fingers and toes—a sure sign that we were blessed and all our worries were for nothing. To her parents’ delight, each new day revealed just how much of a genius she was. After all, by 10 months of age she was walking on her own, saying ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ and had mastered eating with a spoon. Our delight was short lived. The early language skills she demonstrated at 10 months of age had ceased to advance.
Her preschool experience was a painful one. Separation from me—her protector, her interpreter—became a nightmare. The social skills that seemed to come so naturally to most children, e.g. ‘Can I play with you?’, were not part of my child’s vocabulary, nor were those kinds of invitations a regular part of her experience. In spite of my many requests to have her assessed, our doctor insisted ‘She’s fine. She’s cute. Just wait and see’. I stood by watching my daughter retreat into a world she created where nobody could make her feel bad about herself.
A saviour in the form of our dentist made the observation that my daughter didn’t stand a chance of being understood. Her healthy tonsils were so large they blocked her airways, preventing her from pronouncing her words correctly. At 6 years of age she had those nasty tonsils removed and spent the next three years in speech therapy.
Now at 24 years of age she speaks with perfect clarity. The scars, however, from her early years’ experiences have left their mark. She spends her time behind a camera, a voyeur you could say, where she is most comfortable. I can’t help but wonder if she had gotten help earlier how different her life might be. My beautiful, perfect daughter has learned a lot of interesting things from behind the lens of her camera that she could share with you but has no confidence to do so.
What would I do differently today?
Now as a Public Health Nurse, I work with parents across Halton encouraging them to use an easy checklist, called the Nipissing District Developmental Screen™ (NDDS). No doubt many of you may have seen one before (see image). I wish I had known about it when I was raising my daughter because it would have helped me track how she was developing, and determined where she was not meeting developmental milestones. For example, using the NDDS when she was two would have informed me that her speech was not progressing as it should have been. I would have then felt more confident in advocating for her earlier on, and seeking the help she needed. Perhaps that would have made a big difference in the long run with her own self confidence.
How the NDDS works
The NDDS asks for yes or no answers about what a child should be able to do at a certain age. It gives you increased awareness about child development, and in turn helps you then ask the right questions for your child when you talk to your doctor. It can also empower you to ask to for additional help for your child early on, before an issue becomes more critical, like it did for my daughter.
Unfortunately the screen wasn’t available to me when I was raising my kids, but now there are 13 NDDS for different ages of development, from one month through to six years of age – and Halton Region will provide them to you for free.
Using the screen may help your child have a happier story. Here’s how:
- If you check any ‘no’s on the checklist, call us.
We have nurses and child development staff who can answer your questions, suggest activities you can do with your child to help promote their development and/or link you with additional services if needed.
- Take your completed NDDS to your doctor.
Tell your doctor about any ‘No’s you checked. Even one ‘No’ is important to discuss. He/she can also make a referral to services if appropriate.
- Play with your child every day
Play not only helps build a healthy relationship with your child, it also helps develop their skills. Check out the list of activities on the back of the NDDS for some great ideas, or visit a community centre such as an Ontario Early Years Centre or the library.
Please don’t wait and see like I did. Make sure your child is on track with their development. Seek help if needed. You are not alone. We are here to help.
Update re: NDDS
The NDDS tool has been improved and input is needed from families to study if those improvements are better. If you have a child between 1 month and 6 years of age, the NDDS study needs you. Read more.
Share your experience:
Do you have a story about challenges you have faced or any questions about concerns you have with your child’s development? We’d love to hear more. Please comment below or:
- Leave us a comment below
- Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We can help.
Out of respect for her daughter, the Public Health Nurse who wrote this blog has asked to remain anonymous.