“I’m happy, as long as they’re healthy!”
I remember saying this while pregnant with my daughter. I was asked if I was hoping for a boy, since I already had a 4 year old girl. It’s a commonly said phrase. But what if your baby isn’t “healthy”. What if they aren’t a typically developing, normal child? What if you get told that your child has a label of some kind? Having a special needs child is challenging.
It is every parent’s fear.
That moment when you start wondering if something is not quite right with your child’s development is anxiety-inducing. For some it may take a while. After all, it’s often a matter of pride. As they say, denial is more than a river in Egypt. But you can only excuse something for so long.
“Maybe she’ll outgrow it.” “Maybe he’s just a late bloomer.” “It took me a while to figure out how to xyz too.”
For me, it wasn’t that long a journey to admit that, yes, there was something wrong with my daughter. It was kind of obvious – no 18 mo old should still be speaking mostly in baby babble, and still wanting to crawl more than walk. Her delayed development at first was a curious thing, then slightly alarming. Until finally, I realized that I needed to get help.
The first stop was our family doctor.
Since she was due for her 18 mo old well-baby checkup, that’s when I expressed my concerns. I came prepared, with a list, matched up to the baby-development checklists (www.ndds.ca
). She wasn’t matching up everything on the 9 month old list, let alone the 12 months or 18 months list.
At first my doctor was surprised, but then she looked at my daughter, and I mean, really looked at her.
My little girl was standing, walking, but she didn’t respond to her name. She didn’t call me mama. She seemed lost in her own world, babbling away. And she flitted around the room, in a circle. First, she put her bear on the bed. Then she ran to the door. Then she would run back, get her bear, and go to the chair. She would sit for a few minutes. Then back to the bed. Rinse, repeat.
She did this same cycle for 20 minutes, while the doctor and I chatted.
It wasn’t normal.
My doctor looked at me seriously, and I will never forget her face. She asked, “Does she do that often?” I felt a sudden shiver of fear run down my spine, as I nodded. It was true, though I had never really thought about it, before. But yes, this child would repeat the same activities over and over again, constantly.
There was something not typical with my child.
The journey of discovery, agonizingly desperate, searching for answers, would take approximately the next 5 years, before we got a confirmed answer as to why my daughter was like this.
The knowledge of what to do with that answer is something I’m still learning.
To be continued…