Julie McIsaac
January 12, 2022

Is my Child *just* a Late-Bloomer? How can a developmental screener help me find out?

What does it mean if your child is a late bloomer? Recognize the stages of child development and the symptoms of a developmental delay.

I’m sure we all have a story that sounds something like this:  

“My daughter didn’t talk until she was (fill in the blank) and now look at her chattering away—just a late bloomer!” 

“Oh, my child just didn’t crawl, that’s fine, lots of kids are skipping this step, he’ll probably just start running soon—-just these late bloomers!” 

“Yeah, my daughter didn’t like reading when she was in school but now she’s an adult and she reads just fine— just a late bloomer I guess.”

These lovely people are not making up their stories.

They aren’t trying to send us down the wrong path. They’re telling us because they’re sharing their experience. Development is dynamic. That means it happens at different rates for different people. It also means it is easily influenced, or can change direction. Development can be influenced by things like birth order, community, relationships and experiences. It can also have different paths within one person. 

A developmental screening tool can help you learn about what’s happening for your child – so if you have concerns, talk to your pediatrician right away. 

What if we stopped thinking about development like a ladder that needs to be climbed?

We are all unique; our nervous systems, our social relationships, our families. As much as we’ve tried to simplify our understanding of child development, it’s just not simple. In our family, my son’s physical development was impacted due to Cerebral Palsy. This impacted his social development because he couldn’t keep up on the playground at a younger age. This influenced his language development when it came to communicating with peers. As my son developed his motor control and learned to navigate the playground and social relationships more effectively, he did this with grit. (Grit is a way to talk about someone who has strength of character or courage and resolve). This grit fueled his development in many areas and helped him to develop into the awesome kid he is.  

But he also built these skills because he was supported at home and school. (subtitle)

Supports come in different forms. Support can be parent education, therapy appointments, sports programs that are individualized, or a teacher that recognizes when her students need a break from the classroom. 

Are you here because you’re wondering how to tell if your child needs support?

Let’s start by asking some questions. Check-in regularly with yourself (and your partner, if available). Remember, what applies for today does not apply to tomorrow. Things change and it’s our job as parents to keep noticing and remaining curious. 

1. Is there a specific area of development you are wondering about or is your question more a general observation? The most common areas of development can be broken down: 

  • Social/emotional

  • Language/communication

  • Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem solving)

  • Movement/physical development.  

2. Can you identify anything going on in the world of your child that could influence their development in either direction? 

3. What do you notice about your child’s developmental trajectory?  Even though your child may not be on par with their peers in one area, let’s figure out where they are and where they’re going. Development is not all or nothing but a lifelong road and we’re just trying to figure out which exit we meet our kids at. Maybe they need a bit of support to get further up the road a bit and then they’ll be off on their own again. 

4. Why did you come down this road?  What made you start researching and what does that bring up for you?  Do you relate to your child’s experience or is it different from your own? 

No matter why your child’s development is progressing at a different rate or in a different order, asking a professional for a screener is the first step. 

Contact your doctor and ask if they can provide a developmental screener at your next appointment. Share your answers to the questions above to help them understand your concerns. Our ability to remain curious supports our children in becoming their best selves.

  • Julie McIsaac, Ph.D.

    Child Development and Disability Advisor

    Julie specializes in working with children and families with diverse developmental profiles She uses reflective practice, emotion-coaching, play and a relationship-based framework to support skill building in the areas of emotional-regulation and problem-solving. Julie consults with families, schools and community organizations. As a parent, she understands the need to have a cohesive team supporting a child and family.

    Profile Photo of Julie McIsaac
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