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Talking to Your Friends & Family

Friends and family have a great influence on the children in their lives. If you know someone you think should be getting developmental screening for their child, or who should be paying more attention to developmental milestones, talk to them. Here are some ideas on how.

Do’s Don’ts
Choose the time and place thoughtfully. It is important to share your concerns about the child’s development in an appropriate setting. Try to arrange for privacy and limit interruptions. Make sure there is plenty of time to have a full conversation about concerns and be prepared to provide support for emotions. Don’t be dismissive of the parent’s concerns. Though you and the parent may have differing observations, you should not dismiss their concerns. Let them share what they need to, this may be the first time they are facing this reality. You have the opportunity to provide support, so listen to what the parent has to say.
Talk about observations or questions about the parent’s concerns. Try to get a feel for the parent’s thoughts about the child’s development before sharing your own concerns or opinions. Gently ask questions that will allow the parent to voice their concerns first. It is likely they sense something is wrong but may not know how to express this. After the parent shares their concerns, share your own observations. Don’t compare children to one another. Each child is unique. Though you may think telling a story about another child is a good way to ease into the conversation, it can give unrealistic expectations or an increased amount of insecurity about the development of the child. It is better to speak only about the specific child and his or her developmental concerns.
Don’t be Judgmental! Be Supportive! Taking an empathetic approach to this conversation is important. This may be the first time the parent is facing this concern with another person, making it extremely memorable and sensitive. You should be prepared to support whatever the parent wants to share, and be open to the way the conversation unfolds. Don’t be too technical. Using official terminology or jargon can be intimidating and scary. Many conditions and disorders are misunderstood and may cause additional fear. Offering resources about developmental concerns or specific disorders may be more effective in allowing the parent to make the connection on his or her own.
Be confident that you are doing the right thing. Sharing your concerns is the right thing to do, though it can be very difficult. Express your observations in a supportive and caring way. After all, you too, care about the child’s healthy development. Don’t Stimulate Fear. Stay Positive!. Emphasize to the parent that there is a positive outcome from asking the pediatrician to screen for developmental delays. If the child is developing appropriately, the concerns can be let go. If the doctor finds a developmental delay, they can inform the parent of the next steps to address an issue.

For more tips on how to talk to a friend or family member about developmental concerns, visit First Signs. If you want to learn about how to support a loved one whose child has been diagnosed with a developmental delay, click here.