By: Allison Metsch, M.S.Ed
One of the first words that my daughter said was “ca” or car. She was only about 9 months old. In my very biased motherly way I used to think, “Wow, she is advanced!”By the time she was one-year-old, she was even starting to put words together. But she was not walking. She was not even crawling.
As Maya approached the milestone of turning 1, two colleagues encouraged me to look into why she wasn’t even walking. The anger and resentment I felt was strong. I thought “There is nothing wrong with my perfect baby!" How could she be so advanced in one area and not in another?
After I cooled down, I decided to discuss the situation with my pediatrician. She recommended further evaluation. I went through the motions and it turned out that Maya had a sensory processing disorder that prevented her from putting weight on her feet. After months of occupation therapy, she improved and eventually walked at about 19 months.
As an early childhood educator, I am knowledgeable about how children learn and grow at their own pace. However, at the time it seemed impossible to put my emotions aside and remember the facts. I reminisce now about how I used to wonder and wait for her to take those first step. I embrace the philosophy that children truly do think, learn and grow in their own way. Throughout elementary school, Maya did gymnastics. She flipped, balanced and jumped all over. Today, as a teenager, she continues to thrive and develop. She also runs miles on the treadmill.
It is important for educators and parents alike, to become knowledgeable about what realistic expectations are for children’s development. For example, a one-year-old child would not be expected to be able to write his or her name as a five-year-old might.
There are stages of writing that a child would need to go through in order to reach that milestone. A child needs to first learn how to hold a pencil or crayon and then to scribble. After scribbling, he or she would then be able to start to create symbols that would represent letters and would soon transition into writing actual letters. Children will reach each of these stages individually when they are ready.
Children learn in their own time and style. A teacher in a classroom of ten students could not expect all ten to learn in the same way. Some students will learn best visually through looking and observing. Other students will learn best from listening to their parents, their peers and the sounds and noises that fill their environment. There are also students that will learn best from a “hands-on” approach and need to touch, feel and “do” in order to learn best.
Although the facts were in my head, it took a while for them to travel to my heart. I think back about how it took me some time to take the steps to seek help. As parents, it is a process. However, in my gut, I knew it was the right decision. So if you as a parent are a little concerned, know it takes a while and when you are ready, get your child checked.
Allison Metsch, M.S.Ed, Director of Education and Quality Initiatives, Early Learning
Coalition of Broward County
Allison Metsch oversees professional development for early educators and all quality programing for the ELC of Broward County. Allison began her professional career at the University of Miami, earning her Master’s degree while working on the research project, Legacy for ChildrenTM. She has served as Curriculum Specialist of a Head Start program in Miami and a Preschool Director in Cooper City, FL. She has earned a Family Development Credential enriching her work with family engagement. In addition, she worked at Nova Southeastern University as a Master Teacher, coaching, mentoring and training staff from local preschools and eventually leading her team as the Program Manager for NSU’s Road to Child Outcomes team.