Friday, November 07, 2014

The Pendulum: Baby Milestones

I definitely have a love-hate relationship with baby milestones.

I always thought I'd be pretty content for Rory to do things like crawling/walking/talking in his own time.  And I was content....before others told me I shouldn't be.  Some people seemed most concerned that Rory wasn't yet doing things that their kids/grandkids were doing at the same age.  Sometimes it has been health professionals who've said things that got me worried, but mostly it has been other parents.

I can see why milestones are very useful.  They can be reassuring for first-time parents, like myself, who want to know what is 'normal'.  If there are developmental delays, there can be early intervention.

But, on the other hand, milestones tend to treat kids like robots.  It's expected that they all be the same, moving along like a herd.  People say 'every child develops at their own pace' and 'there is a wide range of normal', but, in reality, it often feels like strangers are watching your child with beady eyes, waiting to see if there is something 'wrong'.

I've already had two people tell me they think Rory is autistic.  This has angered me no end because these people are NOT health professionals.  They were targeting one aspect of his behaviour - he likes to line up his plastic toy animals in rows - instead of looking at it as a whole.  After the first person said they thought he was displaying an early sign of autism, I looked into it and that is the only 'red flag' he has.  He's very interactive, makes good eye contact, and definitely has a wide range of interests, not just sorting things.  Besides, isn't 'sorting' a normal toddler behaviour anyway?  There seems to be so many people paranoid about autism today.  I'm part of an Albany mums' Facebook group and so many women on there seem to be worrying endlessly about 'sensory activities' and if their child doesn't like wearing a woolly jumper or something, they must be diagnosed as having Sensory Processing Disorder or ASD (I hated woolly jumpers as a kid and I'm not autistic).

I've also had our child health nurse say she is concerned that Rory does not say enough words for his age; apparently he's supposed to be saying around 50 words, but he says nowhere near that, and some of the words he doesn't say very clearly.  He could be looking at speech therapy if he isn't improving by age two.  He chatters all the time and understands pretty much everything I say, he just doesn't speak clearly or have as wide a vocabulary as some kids his age.  I don't mind going to speech therapy if that's what he needs, it just seems like there's so much pressure on kids to do more and more at younger ages.

Don't get me wrong, I'm so glad to have the health system we have.  I just often feel like I'm to blame if my child is not accomplishing things, which isn't fair on him because I want him to just enjoy being a toddler.  People often jump to the conclusion that the reason he's not great at speaking is because we let him use iPads or iPhones which couldn't be further from the truth....we don't even let him TOUCH them.

Karen, if you're reading this, I'd really appreciate any comments or advice you have.


Wendy said...

Sarah, I"m also an OT, though not doing much in that field now, as you know. However I do know that milestones are only a general guideline. I don't think you should panic. I'm sorry that people are making you feel so judged. It is easy to be tense with your first child anyway, especially if you've not had much to do with other children before, without so many people jumping to conclusions! There seems to be a lot of paranoia that wasn't there 15 years ago!

Sarah said...

Cheers Wendy. :) I love having bloggy friends who work in health.