What is an expert? The dictionary defines an expert as "a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; a specialist; authority". While I find it hard to ever consider myself an expert in anything and most people I know would be hard pressed to call themselves experts simply for pride reasons, experts do exist! People in all fields have earned the title of 'expert' and rightly so. Unfortunately, in a society run by social media, the real experts are often overshadowed by the biggest and loudest voices out there. But are the bigger and louder voices really better?
As an educator of 17 years, I've always leaned more towards the quiet experts. The ones behind closed doors fine-tuning their craft. The ones in the trenches actually doing the work and not just talking about it. As a teacher, there was nothing more frustrating for me than people in offices making the rules that I then had to implement in a classroom. (Sidebar: a quiet office isn't quite the same as a classroom of 26 second graders). I think pediatric therapy experts all over are probably feeling this same way when they discovered the CDC had changed some of the guidelines regarding our children's developmental milestones. Perhaps we should hear from them too.
I know firsthand that each and every year, school systems are raising the academic standards for our children. If those standards are continually being raised then why would milestones for our children be pushed back? Why would milestones disappear? Though the changes may seem small, the impact may not be small. The art of "pushing back" seems simple and insignificant but pushing back milestones also pushes back when you might consider sending your child to therapy which then pushes back when the therapy services might begin which in turn pushes back progress. It's a simple domino effect but it becomes critical when we realize that each domino is a milestone for our child and when it falls, so does our child's progress.
During my years as a special education teacher, I encouraged and stressed early intervention. It's exactly as it sounds. Intervening early; not waiting. The wait and see approach can have lasting effects. When we push back our child's milestones, it encourages us to "wait and see" instead of asking questions and seeking help. Walking should take place between 12-15 months but now is pushed back to 18 months. Verbal vocalizations (talking) should take place around 12 months but has now been pushed back to 15 months. Rolling over has gone from 3-5 months to now the 6 month mark and sitting with support was a 6 month milestone that now has changed to 9 months. Crawling is no longer considered a milestone at all. I was curious how an expert felt about these changes, especially the crawling, so I asked her. Let's look at what she says.
Laurel is a pediatric occupational therapist at Little Big and LOUD here in Powell, TN. She's an expert in her field. Here are her thoughts on crawling no longer being a milestone and other infant milestones being pushed back:
"Crawling provides lots of benefits to children. Hand-eye coordination, fine and gross motor skills, strength, and balance. When babies are crawling, they are using cross lateral movements which means that both sides of the brain are communicating to help with crawling. This also leads to development of binocular vision and bilateral hand skills and coordination. When both sides of the brain are working together, it helps provide a foundation for enhancement of those skills including reading, writing, cutting, and buttoning. Crawling assists with development of hand arches which help with establishment of hand skills including opening container, holding a pencil and holding scissors. It strengthens the core, trunk, shoulder girdle, back, and the arms. It assists with development of the sensory system including vestibular system and visual system. Crawling provides tactile exposure and body awareness. This is a baby's first mode of movement that helps the baby begin to learn their environment in a new and very important way. This milestone and other infant milestones are so important for overall development as well as skill acquisition. These delayed milestones can delay the time a therapist would be consulted or when a child would receive therapy services and we know that research states that early intervention makes GREAT improvements."
So...what can you do? What can we (parents) do? Liz, LBL's expert SLP (speech language pathologist), offers this advice:
ASK QUESTIONS. If you are concerned or curious about your child's speech, language, and/or motor development, ask a professional! Start with your pediatrician who will either help you or refer you to a speech/language pathologist or occupational therapist who can answer those questions for you.
"Wait and see" is never the answer. As mentioned previously, research has proven that early identification and early intervention HELP. You don't want to miss that critical learning period and then be forced to try to help your child play catch up in the years to come.
STARTING EARLY WILL NEVER HURT; IT WILL ONLY HELP.
In closing, time is of the essence. Just like in all aspects of parenting, time is never really on our side. Our children grow too quickly, change too quickly and before we know it they are attempting to leave the nest with the tools we have given them that they turn into wings. It is our JOB, it is our RIGHT, to fight for our children. We fight for their health and we fight for their happiness. WE are the experts on raising our children. Don't let the biggest and the loudest overshadow your expertise on your own children. Do the research, ask the questions, and intervene early. The clock is ticking.....