How you can tell the difference between a child who develops at his/her own pace and one that really presents developmental disorders?
What a great question. And there will be some fuzzy borders. Some children are just late bloomers or need a little extra attention. For instance, I was a late readers, but now I can't stop. I really hit my academic burst post-college!
Here are some suggestions:
1. There are always base line studies and standardized tests. By using these tests, you will be able to compare a child is. If the test shows a child is average, then no worries.
2. If a child is way below the norm or average, then some observation with the child is a good idea. I would try to encourage the child by working through the issues in a very gentle way to see if this helps. This may just to do the trick. Or we may just find out that things at home have been hard. You get the idea.
3. If there is little improvement with point 2, then a specialist may need to be called in to do some formal tests. Act early.
When determining whether a child is developmentally on track, I would ask myself, “Does the child only differ from peers in one area or in multiple areas of development?” If the child was only “behind” in one area, I might be less apt to show concern than if the child lagged in multiple areas. Having said that, it never hurts to ask questions and get the opinion of professionals. Most developmental disorders are far easier to treat when caught and addressed at a young age. For that reason alone, I would not hesitate to seek the counsel of a specialist. Sometimes a developmental difference signals a red flag to a professional that the average layperson would never even consider.