Comparing your Toddler's Speech Development with Others: Good Idea or Bad?
I remember a conversation with a mom who was frustrated because her son was taking way too long to potty train. He was over three years old and understandably she said, "He should be trained by now!" She was comparing her son to his peers.
It's very natural for us, as parents, to compare our children with their peers. How beneficial is this though? Although her son has not been formally diagnosed, he was typically developing about six months behind his peers. I gave her a few tips on potty training, but encouraged her to not focus on why he had not yet caught up to his peers, but on the steps to help him progress.
If you know that your child has a developmental delay, try to move your focus off comparing your child to his or her peers. Instead, focus on your child's specific progress and abilities. I know this is not the easiest thing to do. Not only do we tend to compare our children with their peers, but other people (concerned family members, close friends, etc.) also compare. My children were all considered late walkers. My oldest walked at 15 months, my next son walked at 19 months, and my daughter was almost 2 years old. I too joined the comparing game and wondered why my daughter was so slow to walk. However, a more beneficial approach would have been to focus on what things I could do to encourage her to walk. Was there something wrong with her legs? Should I consult a pediatrician? Was she just not motivated to walk? What activities could I do to help her progress?
Another example I have relates to speech. A mother asked me what suggestions I had for her child who was two and not yet talking. He had been diagnosed with a developmental delay. As I researched some on this particular developmental delay, I found that many of the children with this delay are considered late talkers, not talking until 3 or 4 years old. Does that mean sit back and do nothing until he's 3 or 4? No. But, if we stay focused on that fact that our children don't meet the expectations of others or match the abilities of their peers, we will only become frustrated, discouraged, and overwhelmed. (I'm not implying that this mother was focused on comparing him to his peers.)
So, first we deal with the fact that our child has a developmental delay and then we stop looking at everyone else and focus on our child. What are his or her current abilities? Okay, he's not talking and he doesn't seem to pay attention to me when I'm talking to him. So, my first step is to work on eye contact and simplifying my speech. Then, he's making some progress on eye contact, but I notice that he's getting more and more frustrated when I can't figure out what he wants. Now let's introduce some basic sign language to reduce some of the frustration. He may not be caught up to his peers, but is he making progress? If he's capable, our goal may be for him to catch up to his peers in the future, but that can't be our main focus now. Now we take things step by step, praising him for every move in the right direction - praising him for every attempt!
If you think your child may have a speech delay I would encourage you to consult a pediatrician and be recommended to a local speech language pathologist. In the meantime, if you are looking for ways to help her toddler progress, my speech calendar can help. The speech calendar includes weekly activities and speech tips you can use to help your toddler talk.
People may have all kinds of advise or opinions and we can drive ourselves crazy, if we focus on what other people may think. Be encouraged, persevere, and take one step at a time!
If you have questions or comments, please drop a comment below.