Quick answer here- it’s never too early to start to do something if you have concerns about your baby’s development.
It is clear from many research studies, and across the 20 years I have worked in this field, that parents and caregivers are always right with their gut instincts. Numerous parents I have engaged with as a Consultant have recalled that their concerns about their child’s development started as early as 3-4 months old.
Unfortunately in the United Kingdom, where the majority of my work has been, Doctors rarely act on these concerns and often disregard caregivers’ opinions altogether.
Meanwhile, there is a window of opportunity to change a child’s developmental trajectory which could easily be missed.
Although Autism is the key concern for many parents and caregivers when they start to worry about their baby, there are a wide range of neurological differences that can impact on a young child’s development, including Dyspraxia, ADHD and sensory processing difficulties.
It’s difficult not to go down the google rabbit hole when you first start to worry, and it can be extremely confusing when trying to understand your child’s differences in development. Often they do not fit into a diagnostic ‘box’. That’s why it is always important to look at a child as an individual, rather than focusing on a set of symptoms that may or may not be something that results in diagnosis later on. Every child is unique and some children just have a different way of developing. It’s also confusing to try and decide whether to ‘do something’ or just wait and see. But, if your baby is finding some things a little trickier than they should, then it’s never to early to try and find ways that you can help them.
From the growing body of research that looks specifically at infants who are at risk of developing autism (babies who are showing very early red flags and/or siblings of children on the spectrum), the evidence points very clearly to the importance of intervening early and the impact that this can have longer term. However, this evidence does not advocate an intensive ‘therapist led’ approach. Instead, the greatest impact on child progress comes from parent power!
Supporting parents and caregivers to better understand their baby’s differences and strengths, whilst coaching them in strategies that will help to bridge some of the gaps in development that they have identified is absolutely the best way forward.
This is why in Play2Talk we use a parent coaching model that builds the skills of those who know their baby best. When supporting babies who are finding the social side of development a little difficult, focusing on capturing attention and building engagement in fun 2 person play activities can really help. Once those foundations are in place, you can then work on building opportunities to teach your baby the early communication skills that they may be finding tricky. Most of all, whatever you choose to do with your baby early on, make sure it’s fun! Parents and caregivers who are worried at this stage are often experiencing huge levels of stress. We would strongly recommend that one of the most important things to try and do is to find ways to make your baby laugh! Even if you have to do this in the most unusual ways! Look for the smile and go with it!
Dr Ruth Glynne-Owen