During my son’s one-year exam with the pediatrician he happened, by chance to crawl in the exam room. All of his crawling behaviors were normal, except that he had a funny thing he did with his leg as he moved around the room, looking kind of like and injured dog trying to walk. Since my son was not in any pain, this odd movement didn’t initially concern my husband or me as he began crawling at the expected age and was able to get from place to place in the normal crawling amount of time. His form looked funny as he crawled, but that seemed like a picky parent concern to us, so we thought we would wait to mention our observation at his yearly checkup and see what the doctor thought.
Looking back, I am so thankful the doctor was able to see this funny crawl. My describing of the doggie crawl would have lead to me babbling to the doctor, leading to frustration on my part and most likely confusion on the pediatrician. If you struggle with specifically describing any concerns you may have about your child, take the time before the appointment to write down your description or take a video on your phone. This is a nice portable way to show your doctor if your child is not the type to perform on command in the exam room.
This simple crawling experience set off a series of events that would lead my child into working with therapists in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy. Every time I mention to someone that my little guy is in physical therapy and has been receiving services for over a year, their reaction is typically the same, “He needs physical therapy?”
This initial surprise comes from these observers noticing that my child runs, walks, climbs stairs and navigates pretty much any physical task with apparent ease. These observers don’t notice, though, that my son takes a few extra moments to think about how he is going to navigate the playground or that he avoids sitting in ways that engage his core muscles. They also don’t notice that his right leg is so much stronger than his left leg that he is creating an imbalance in his leg strength. I am continually surprised by how much slower my little guy moves or the ease of frustration that washes over him if I have him climb stairs leading with his weaker leg.
If your child has any difficulties like my child and is a little too smart for their own good, chances are they know what physical tasks they struggle with and are planning alternate ways around those challenging movements. It is very hard to know when a kid struggles with something if they do everything to avoid that struggle. How can a parent observe something their child is trying to keep hidden?
This is why those conversations with your pediatrician are crucial. Just mentioning something or showing a video of a concern you may have will either relieve you of your concern, or if it is a valid concern it will get your child on the road to early interventions. At the very least, your pediatrician should note the concern in your child’s medical record, making those concerns a great source of documentation over time.
What should a parent be on the lookout for if their kid is trying to avoid any challenges that may be difficult for them? Here is my brief list of behaviors to be on the lookout for since this could be an indication of a greater challenge for your child.
9 Concerns that would be beneficial to mention to your child’s pediatrician include:
- Picky eating
Does your kid not even attempt to eat something? Is dinnertime a source of frustration for you? Picky eating can include situations or behaviors where your child only eats a limited type or temperature of food, refusing vegetables and/or fruit, absolute refusal to try new foods, and has a preference for foods with no texture (creamy carbohydrates- ice cream, crackers, and fruit snacks- are typically preferred in our household).
Constipation can be a sign that your child is not eating a balanced diet, even though you may be doing everything you can to get your child to eat. If your child suffers from chronic constipation, start to ask yourself why they are constantly blocked up.
- Easily upset by messy clothes
Drops of water on your child’s clothes, glue on their hands, and a constant need to wash their hands can be signs of sensory disregulation in your child. While every kid can be upset at some time or other, take a moment to observe your child when they are near other children doing the same activity. Are the other kids upset by the glue on their hands? It would be worth mentioning to your pediatrician if you are often finding your child is the only one upset.
- Crashing into objects purposely
If your kid likes to crash into objects this could be a sign they are sensory seeking. Take note of the times they crash into things, often these kids are not typically hurt by these incidences so they may not be on your radar. If this is a concern prepare a list of the times and places they crash. If it is only in one setting, like the park, they may only be blowing off excess energy. If you are finding it is at the grocery store, your house, grandmas, and church, you might want to say something to your doctor.
- Picky Eating
When my daughter (both my kids received early interventions) was assessed for occupational therapy, due to sensory regulation issues, her picky eating came up as a concern. Picky eating can have a sensory component to it or it could be also weak mouth muscles as the cause. This led to a speech evaluation and therapy for my daughter.
- Repeating words or phrases
Don’t mix this one up with stuttering. My daughter received speech therapy as a tot, which was a surprise as she was a chatterbox, clearly articulating every phrase uttered about a wide variety of things. One area that stood out as a concern was that she would repeat a question or comment two or three times. For example, when asking to go to the library she would say:
“Can we go to the . . .
Can we go to the . . .
Can we go to the library?”
Being so close to her every day, I grew accustomed to this way of speaking and didn’t notice that my daughter struggled with a word finding issue, not being able to think of the word she wanted to say. If your child seems to struggle with finding that one word or it seems like words are always on the tip of their tongue, take note of the times and places this may happen. Is it only occurring when they are really excited about their favorite toy? Maybe it is only because they are tired. Either way discussing a possible speech evaluation might be worthwhile.
- W Sitting
If your child sits with their butt in between their legs on the floor, they are sitting in a ‘w’ position. This is not a good position to constantly sit in as it puts unnecessary pressure on their hips. ‘W’ sitting is also a sign that the child’s core may not be supporting their body as it should. Telling your kid to change their sitting position is a good start, but keep note of how often they are sitting in this spot.
- Later Walking
Both of my children were in the typical range of independent walking, up to 15 months is considered typical. However, both of them did not successfully walk until 15 months. On its own, this is not a concern, but as my children had other delays in their development as well, it was something that I made sure to pass on to the doctor.
- Buddha Belly
Little baby bellies are adorable. As these little ones increase in their developmental milestones, all areas of their body should be coordinating together causing the cute little belly to go away. If your child continues to have a pronounced belly, it could be a sign that their core abdominal muscles aren’t working in coordination with their bodies. This one would most likely show up as a concern after two-years of age.
Each of these concerns on their own are most likely little quirks of your child. As you read through this list, if you are finding there are a few areas that sound just like your child, jot a few notes and take a few pictures to share with your child’s pediatrician. At the very least the doctor can give you an explanation or share ideas for you to work on at home. If it is something to be concerned about, though, they will send you on to the proper specialist for an evaluation. If you were to go to a specialist, use the gift of time for your child to work in an early intervention.
My children have received services from a variety of therapists for years. I am so thankful for the support of these individuals because my children love the individual therapy time to play on some amazing equipment and I have received so many wonderful and helpful tips to better support my children as unique individuals.