If 6 years in Early Intervention taught me anything...it taught me to be hypervigilant about my kids' developmental milestones. This can be a good thing (I know what the warning signs are and what to watch out for) but not so good (ahem, slight obsession with little things). I know that repetitive behaviors, echolalia and sensory issues can mean Autism spectrum disorders (note I said 'can', not always). I know that not walking until 16 months isn't always an issue and can be within normal development range. ...And lots of other things.
It's those other things that I tend to remember and be hypervigilant about, perhaps even slightly obsessed. It's a blessing and a curse. I monitor my kids constantly for their development skills, mostly without realizing it. It's how I know that Karter automatically qualifies for EI due to his failure to thrive diagnosis, if he was showing other delays obviously. It has crossed my mind a time or two, to call and see where he's at.
My current observations are Kian's fine motor skills. They're a bit poor. It could be because he's a lefty like me and I think (from my experience) it takes a bit more to get used to, in a "backwards" world. It's not even expected of him to trace or write yet, that comes later, but he should be drawing some more shapes-something other than scribbles. When I ask him and get him focused he can draw circles and shapes, but it's not easy for him, and sometimes he presses too hard and breaks tips of utensils. Thanks to a great OT I worked with before, she gave me some more ideas to improve his hand strength and fine motor skills.
On the other hand, Karter's fine motor skills are awesome. He's been using a spoon and fork correctly since his birthday, a skill that's more of an 18 month expectation. With Karter, it's obviously the eating, calories and speech that I'm watching. He's starting to say more words, which is good, almost 2 dozen--"oh wow" being my favorite. I do think there's some sounds, or lack of, I am watching right now, that he should have already.
What is troublesome for me, is that I know this stuff because I worked in the system, but every other-every day parents don't know these things. The checklists that magazines, pediatricians and websites give for parents to view and compare that their child is doing, are minimal and sometimes downright pathetic. Parents aren't (still!) being told what to look for with Autism. They were supposedly implementing the MCHAT (Autism checklist for toddlers--also very bare-bones, I think) at pediatric appointments, and I've never been asked any of the questions. Also, pediatricians and doctors ask yes/no questions about child development. Instead of asking "how many words does your child say, and tell me some" they say "does he say about 10 words?" It's a very broad range of normal and parents just say 'yes'. Or "is your child walking yet?" No one asked to actually see Kian walk until I brought up concerns when he was younger about his flat feet. The quality of their walking is just as important as if they are walking. But, if the parent actually answers with more information it would give the doctors a lot more insight to the child's development, more than that 10 minutes weighing/measuring check ever does.
I know I have been guilty of just nodding and saying yes to things that weren't entirely truthful. (Does your child sleep in a crib alone with no blankets? Uh, why yes. *fingers crossed behind back.*) And what a parent might think is "no big deal" because it doesn't bother them, in their house, or interfere with their daily routines, can really be a big deal, and very troublesome and it might not be caught for months or years.
*The MCHAT, in my opinion is looking for severe Autism symptoms and characteristics. But there's a wide spectrum and different characteristics other than hand-flapping, non-verbal kids, and some of those aren't mentioned on the checklist, or not explained well.
It's not just Autism either, there's plenty of other issues and concerns--physical disorders, language, visual, sensory, or delays that could be caused by illness or disease-or be symptoms of serious conditions/illnesses, on and on. Yes, all kids have different strengths and weaknesses, and everyone develops at different rates. But, especially, new parents may miss red flags, or are told by well-meaning parents and doctors to "wait it out". Sorry, but after working for 6 years with kids who's parents "waited it out" and were on the cusp of being 3 years old and not talking, or just receiving a diagnosis and now being thrust into the school districts to navigate their special education committees, why wait?
Of course no one wants anything to be wrong with their child. I can't imagine serious illness or disabilities. Failure to thrive, not gaining weight, is frustrating enough, as it is. I guess I'm just a believer in "better safe than sorry" when it comes to developmental testing, or "sooner is better" to work on any delays. And in NY, the help is free... Now I shall go back to my regularly scheduled vigilance on Karter's food intake, Kian's pencil gripping, Finn's barks per minute... you know, typical stuff ;)
Some of the better lists:
Mayo clinic charts
Keep kids healthy
Zero to Three
and this is why i never sleep and have no friends i'm sure of it...