- If you take the wait and see approach, you lose one of your biggest assets: Time!
- Development happens rapidly in young children, so a child who is developing more slowly can quickly fall further and further behind.
- To correct a delay, a child needs to show an accelerated pace of skill building, which is hard to do without specialized intervention.
When you have concerns about your child’s development, family, friends, and sometimes even medical providers may tell you to “wait and see.” Please don’t! This idea of waiting (without doing anything) to see whether your concerns truly are valid has been a popular way of dismissing worried parents for decades. Part of its popularity stems from how variable development can look from child to child, which can make identifying delays (especially in young children) difficult. Additionally, there wasn’t always much that we could do to support development when there truly were issues, so taking this cautious approach made more sense than it does now.
When issues with development do exist, the goal is to help your child function at a typical level for their age. This is actually quite hard to do and it becomes much harder the longer you wait to address concerns. If your child is initially slow to develop a skill, but then subsequently builds that skill at an age-appropriate rate, they don’t actually catch-up. Instead, they simply hold their ground. In other words, the situation isn’t getting worse, but it isn’t getting better either.
The trouble is, many children who experience developmental issues actually build skills at a slower than expected developmental rate. This means that, as time goes by, the gap between where your child is functioning and where we would like them to be functioning grows. In other words, they fall further and further behind the longer we wait.
The best shot we have at closing the gap between where your child is functioning and where we would like them to be is to create an environment that promotes skill growth, a lot of skill growth. Whether a gap is large or small, we need to help your child have an accelerated rate of skill development in order to catch-up. This is not easily done, especially in an area where your child is already struggling. The best way to do this, however, is to have your child receive intensive intervention as soon as you can.
Research has shown time and again that the sooner you address possible issues with development, the better your child’s outcome is likely to be. In fact, there is growing evidence that differences in the brain may be seen in children even before they start showing any signs of issues with their development. So, the earlier you address developmental issues, the more you can minimize the impact they have on your child.
This approach tends to be a little different from the way many schools and government funded early intervention programs work. In general, these programs may not find your child eligible for services until they are showing delays of a certain severity level. By the time that happens, you may already have lost a great deal of valuable time as you have essentially had to wait for things to get worse in order to finally access supports to help make them better. In this situation, accessing supports outside of the school system may be necessary while you continue to advocate for your child’s needs within the school system.
Every child who experiences some differences in their development can benefit from early and intensive supports. The key is to identify what areas need support and what the most effective strategies are to support development in those areas. This is where a neuropsychologist can help by developing an individualized action plan to address your child’s needs.