Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

What "Developmental Delay" Turns Out To Mean, or, What's A Two?

I remember when people listened to comedy monologues on vinyl, rather than on YouTube. My students probably wouldn't believe it. They giggle when I tell them I own cassette tapes. In my students' world, a vinyl album might as well be a horseless carriage.

Back in the Late Cretaceous Period, my parents owned a Bill Cosby stand-up comedy album that had a long ramble about kindergarten. There's a total mismatch between what he remembers being asked to learn and what he remembers being able to think about: "One and one make two. That's great. What's a two?" Is it really possible I was laughing along to that monologue while I was actually in kindergarten?

Just this week, Gareth has demonstrated that he knows what a two is, and that he has both the word and concept for "other," as in the other of two. Numbers beyond two seem to elude him so far, but that's perfectly peachy. We're really surprised about the two. For a fifteen-month-old, he's got plenty of ability to communicate number sense.

Because Gareth's ahead on language development, I figured he couldn't possibly be behind, or at least not behind enough to worry about, not with anything that mattered. So he never crawled. So what? Some kids don't, right? Some kids go straight to walking. They're all different. I used to say, "I figure he'll learn to crawl sometime before he goes to college." He could walk, he could run, he could stomp more or less in time to music. Surely that should be good enough.

Apparently crawling matters a whole lot, though no one knows why. Apparently 75% of kids with dyslexia never crawled as babies. Is there a causal link? Can getting a non-crawler to crawl prevent him from developing dyslexia? Nobody knows for sure, not yet. Nonetheless, my excellent sister, whose reading disability is like dyslexia only weirder and rarer, declared that Gareth was not allowed to develop a reading disability, because she knew from experience that having a reading disability sucks. Fortunately, my sister also has two close friends who are pediatric physical therapists, so we were able to pick their brains.

The first thing they asked: Are there carpets in the house, or hardwood floors? Because babies hate crawling on hardwood floors. (Who knew?)

The upshot of all the brain-picking: Get that kid into the state early intervention program!

So Dan and I bought a carpet the next day, and within three days Gareth had learned how to get himself into a standing position from a seated one--something he'd been refusing even to try, though he was many months past when kids usually learn to do that. And we called the state hotline.

By the time the assessment team could meet with us, Gareth was good enough at getting up from the floor on his own that we no longer qualified for state services, but the non-crawling thing still dismayed the assessors. They were surprised and initially skeptical about our claim that Gareth could identify and name three colors, though he proved us right before the ladies sat down to write their report. He was far enough ahead in language development that their test could not measure him in it, but far enough behind in gross motor skills to have an 11% developmental delay.

I had no idea a person could be considered developmentally delayed in just one area or just a few areas. All these years, when I heard my friends who had kids with developmental delays discussing their struggles to get their kids help, I thought I knew what they were talking about. Nope. When they told me about the things their kids had trouble doing, I just assumed the kids had the same amount of trouble doing everything else, too. I hope my attempts at sympathy and support made up for my cluelessness. I hope I wasn't a jerk.
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