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What I Wish Pediatricians Would Ask Parents of Children With Development Delays

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After a few years of crying in doctor’s offices after being assaulted by the questions and assumptions on developmental checklists, I am left wondering who has benefited. Really. If I were forced to go through the last half dozen reports, I would relive the devastation and sorrow over missed milestones, so far away they weren’t even in our atmosphere. How could my son be expected to sit up if he couldn’t yet roll over? Why was I being asked if he could pull up or walk when he could not yet sit up alone? Over and over again, I was forced to circle the word “No.” With every circle, I shrank into my seat and cuddled the warm body that snuggled closer with his blankie, oblivious to his mother weeping over the paper, now dotted damp with tears.

young boy wearing green glasses
Adrian’s son, Amos.

Not much came of those questions. I’m sure they were tossed in the files designated for Amos’ well-checks and perhaps a scrawled note by one of our pediatricians, shifting from foot to foot, awkward with the snuffling mama and the little boy unaware that she had been emotionally mutilated yet again. Perhaps my sorrow solicited the incoming remarks that inadvertently made me feel even worse. In order to perk me up, I was asked if I thought therapy was helpful and made to feel like I was trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. Those questions had just secured my thinking that there were real problems, but then I was encouraged to discount the questions and the fears that were being cemented in my heart.

It could be so much better. Truly. What could the parents of children with special needs be asked? Perhaps no questionnaire would be better than an inappropriate one, but I actually want to be like everyone else. I want to document my son’s progress and be just one of the gang, a mother noting her child’s achievements. They may not be the same as those of typically-developing peers, but they were quite admirable and were worthy of written accolades. If anything, he and I work so hard on every little accomplishment, we ache for a chance to brag. After six months of showing him how to wave bye bye, one day his arm came up, like a broken wing of a seagull trapped in the sea, but it flew up and we cheered. The months I called his name and he never turned and then one day, he looked at me and smiled. Completed a task, pushed a car, learned to walk, threw away some trash in the kitchen, gave his brother a kiss upon instruction, stopped before running into the street, fake cried to get his way; all these things accomplished over the last year, but it seemed no one cared.

These are the types of things I want to share, so maybe the questions could be open-ended and ask parents to share any accomplishment, no matter how small, that has happened since last year at this time. I wouldn’t mind being asked about me, too, and our family. It’s easier to write my feelings than be pinned down in a room that seems to get smaller by the second as my strangled voice stumbles over the words that shoot like quivers from my heart. What could it hurt? I can’t think of any harm, and maybe it would help, just an off chance? A parent may leave happy, and that should count for something.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment when you were at a hospital and a medical staffer, fellow patient or a stranger made a negative or surprising comment that caught you off guard. How did you respond to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: May 10, 2016
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