New Parents: Trust Your Instincts
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Good news, you’ve just given birth to that bouncing baby girl or boy. You’ve prepared to be the best parent possible. Everything is going to go as planned and you will live happily ever after.
I love that dream for everyone, but as many special needs parents can confirm, it doesn’t always work out that way.
Pregnancy usually guarantees a certain amount of blood work and testing to confirm the baby is healthy even before it’s born. Though there are some conditions or diseases, such as Neurofibromatosis, that do not present until after birth. Therefore, parents might be confused if a child appears healthy, but is not necessarily meeting average growth standards.
The good news is that there are a couple things parents can do to aid in making sure their children are on the right track.
Families who already have children have an advantage because they are able to compare a newborn to an older child. Not so for a new parent. That being said, many parents are at a loss for where their new baby should be physically and neurologically.
Some children meet average growth standards slowly and some are very delayed if they meet them at all. New parents could be proactive by checking developmental milestones and tuning into their child’s progress; making sure to record any positive or negative signals. Reading anything and everything written about newborns doesn’t hurt either. Recognizing that all children develop at varying levels, there are still average guidelines that parents should understand.
Parents might have a sense that something is different with their baby, but perhaps the pediatrician advises not to worry. This is the time to trust your instincts and get a second opinion.
Speaking from experience, I wish I had done that very same thing. In my heart, I knew something wasn’t right, but I was a naïve young mother and believed the very same doctor who would eventually refer my child to a specialist. Looking back, I wasted two years, which could have been better served finding occupational, speech and physical therapists as well as academic supports. I could have, would have and should have followed my gut instinct.
Since then, I’ve learned the earlier children receive support services the better off they will be when they begin elementary school. Many times, children with special needs are not evaluated until about age 3. This is around the time preschools realize there is “something just not right” about the child’s abilities. Children who do not attend preschool most likely won’t be identified until kindergarten or closer to first grade.
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you will notice that I am a warrior of fighting through bureaucracy’s “red-tape.” Let the truth be told for young parents who suspect their child might have a disability; there will be so much red-tape, families will be able to wrap their house in it. Unfortunately, there isn’t much one can do about the process, especially when the children are babies; testing, evaluations and even more testing will be required in order to gain access to early interventions. These things take time and that’s why parents should not waste a second when it comes to advocating for their child. The time is now!
Think long term
Parents should not let a ton of paperwork or negative attitudes stop them from gaining access to academic or related services. Cutting governmental barriers is essential in gaining the best education for your child. This might sound far-fetched, but anything parents can do to support interventions during the toddler years will ultimately provide the foundation their child will need when they are young adults.
As parents, we strive for our children to become self sufficient and independent to ensure a successful transition into adulthood. Trust your instincts and never, ever let someone talk you out of it.
*Note: Parents needing more detailed information about growth and development should access the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.
C.C. Malloy lives in Greensboro and is a steadfast supporter of children with a disability. Any information here should not be considered legal advice and counsel should be sought for personal educational guidance. For additional support, please visit her website, Bizigal’s Exceptional Blooms.