Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Would You Do

What would you do if you noticed, because you looked, if you noticed that a family friends' baby seems to be significantly delayed?

But I could be wrong and that is why I am putting this out there. The baby is 11 months old and was premature by about 2 months. I know very little about infants and even less about preemies.

I saw this baby at Thanksgiving, and at the time I noticed something was not quite right. Nothing I could be specific about, but I kept in the back of my mind to try a few things the next time I saw her. So I did. Here are the things I noticed.

She has a weak gaze and does not make direct, engaging eye contact. She does not grip with her legs when held by an adult. Tracking an object with her eyes, she did but the movement was jerky, the item was a spoon she had been holding all day. (Genea thought I was being mean to her and kept saying, give her back the spoon!) She is unusually placid. She does not babble or make any other sound than the usual crying. I held her straight in front of me under her arms and tilted her slightly to the side, she did not show the righting reflex.

She is crawling and appears ready to walk soon. She appears to eat normally but is still eating pureed food. Dont know if there is a swallowing disorder that she needs the mushy food for. She did not seem to have trouble being around other kids, but I did not notice her playing except for the spoon. She turned her head towards the sound when I snapped my fingers.

I am not terribly close to these family friends. I think someone needs to be sure this is all looked into by a pediatrician, who may have already noted something, I don't know. My mom would have heard most likely, if something has been mentioned. I know it is really important to start working with the kids asap when they show delays like this.

This couple had a baby that died 3 months after Teena was born. Before the funeral, her mom, so the babies grandmother, told the mom that God took her baby as punishment because she had sinned by not being married. Their second baby was premature also, and had the same condition prenatally that the first baby died from. Third baby is this one, who as well had the same prenatal problems and did survive but was 2 months early. The Dad is estranged from his family because of this relationship, which they are now married. So there is some dark, unfortunate and horribly sad history there that makes them kind of prickly and defensive about the kids.

So here is what I am looking for opinions on. If anyone is familiar with preemies, is there a general sort of delay that catches up after a few years?
Would you bring it up to the parents that you noticed the baby is not showing typical development, or would you keep the information to yourself because you could darn well be totally wrong.
Would you coach another person who is close to the parents and have that person bring it all up? Or would that be rude/ offensive?

After the fact, I mentioned all this to The Hub and he said he had noticed something too, the last time we had seen them. So, This Hub knows even less than me about infants, only ever having spent time with his own!

I am really hoping someone is going to chime in a say, Yep! This is normal for a preemie!


  1. Hmm. That's a tough one if you are not close to her. It's possible she already knows about the delays and may be defensive about intrusion. You would think that given that the baby is a premie, her pediatrician would be all over developmental assessments. I don't know how you'd bring it up without offending her or seeming like you're overstepping your bounds.

    It you suspect that she ISN'T aware of or doing anything about the delays, maybe you could casually bring up with her the premie issue and ask if she does physical therapy or OT or anything to catch up, you know, just out of curiosity about how things work with premies. ?? That's all I've got.

  2. Hey Essie,

    I am an early childhood professional who has had a lot of experience with special needs infants and toddlers, and my best advice would be to gently let her know about preventative services out there like Early On (part of Head Start) so that she feels supported and cared for, and let the professionals do the diagnosing and referring. You are in Minnesota, right? Let me know if there are specific ways I can help.


  3. That's so hard, parents are so prickly when it comes to their kids anyway, throw in a few other mitigating factors and it could go very badly.

    Although, when hubby's notice baby things, it's significant, they aren't wired that way.

    I don't see it being much harm to bring it up, since you aren't close, you can just be that freaky no it all lady that comes around once in awhile.

    And if they do freak, it'll probably make for a good post:)

  4. OK, I can't believe I am going to give away my secret but here is what I would do(I've done it before).

    Call up the Mom and play stupid and then lie. Tell her that one of your blogger pals just had a preemie and was concerned about x, y, & z. Then, pick their brain. Compliment the Mom about being an experienced preemie Mom, she would have all the answers, yada yada yada.

    The key to making this work though is YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO PLAY STUPID!!! Tha1t is the easy part for me! He He!

    Good Luck!

  5. That is so hard - I personally know of two separate grandparents that have each felt there were some delays in their own grandchildren. They tried to be gentle about telling the parents, but the reaction was very defensive. Still, I say do it anyway, in one of these clever ways the other commenters have. The parents might get defensive but, if they hadn't noticed it before, you can bet that they will pay more attention now!

  6. I would say tell her. Yes she may be defensive and annoyed with you for a while, but you'd feel much better about yourself if it got the child help earlier. And if not, she would get over it after a while... maybe a few years? :)
    I know people who it took waaay to long to realize there were issues, and starting therapy earlier would have helped a lot.
    But yes I do know preemies can have delays so I'd see if she already knows first.

  7. I am not an expert in preemies, but I truly think you are on to something with this baby. At 11 months, she should definitely be more alert and interactive. As far as who should mention it to her, obviously not her mother. That was a HORRIBLE thing to say to her daughter - that her baby died as a punishment to her. That is absolutely not true; that is not how God operates. Do you know anyone else who is close to her? Is the mother herself slow or developmentally delayed at all?

    What about asking your mom as another opinion-giver too, since she knows the family as well.

    If you do talk to this woman yourself, you could simply mention or suggest that she bring the topic up with her doctor: should I expect my child to develop normally, even though she was premature? If the doctor hasn't noticed anything yet, she needs a new doctor.

    That's my 2 cents. (more like 200!)


  8. I'm going to take the opposing opinion here. Our first child had delays, and we knew, but couldn't face it for a while. If we had been confronted, we'd have broken off the friendship immediately, and been very offended. When we were ready, we asked for, and received services for our child. We needed to work our way through the sorrow of loosing that "perfect child", and face the future with the child God gave us.

    If you REALLY need to do it, I like the mom who suggested the playing dumb phone call, asking in the name of a friend with a preemie, complimenting her parenting, etc.

  9. I'm no expert by any means but do have a preemie myself. Since you said this preemie was 2months early and is now currently 11months old- you have to judge her as a 9month old (her adjusted age). Developmentally- crawling & getting ready to walk, eating food ect sounds like she's doing pretty good. Heck my 10.5mo (1month early so 9.5mo adjusted) just learned to crawl this week! He does not eat solid food , or very little and doesn't pull to stand.. Of course we realize he's delayed and are getting the help needed. The eye thing would be my biggest concern as the leg clenching/righting reflex could possibly just be part of her personality.

    I'm not really sure what'd I'd do in regards to mentioning it to the mom since you already said you aren't close. If it were me, being a wimp, I'd probably have my mom mention it since she's closer to the family and it'd probably go over better.

    Good luck!

  10. This is a toughie. As an Early Childhood educator this doesn't sound typical to me. Even at two months adjusted, I would expect a nine month old to be more engaging, physically strong and active than that.

    I maybe would suggest mentioning something, along the lines of what Rachael and Alyssa's Mom said. That is if you see her on a regular enough basis to talk to her. Most likely, if the baby is getting regular check-ups, the doc is aware and therefore, the parents would be aware as well. They may just not be open about it.

    I am in a similar situation myself. We have neighbors with a 4.5 year old little girl. She was adopted at birth. Her parents have mentioned before, in so many words, that her first mother was "slow," but really have never made any comments to me about their daughter's intellegence. Mom has asked me about S's speech, and is it typical for her age, etc. and I've always been honest (no, it's NOT) but I've never brought up the cognitive or social issues that I see. S is in a wonderful private preschool and apparently none of the teachers there have brought up any cognitive, behavioral, or social issues (which are more obvious than obvious to me!) so I keep my mouth shut. It's very difficult. I don't want to alienate them by mentioning my concers, yet I don't want them to think a few years down the road that I've done nothing if (when) she's labeled LD and / or ED in school. Let us know what you decide to do.

  11. My foster baby was born a month early. He has had some delays, and the docs said it was probably b/c he was early. He is just now barely eating baby food, and he is 9 1/2 months. He has just been different from my own 3. He is on time with some things, and a little behind on others. I will say, he, and the other foster baby we had, both acted very different around people they don't know, than just here at home. My baby will just stare, and not smile at people he doesn't know...but is all smiles and sociable at home.

    It does really sound like this baby could have something wrong...and some parents, especially if they don't have much experience around other kids may not realize something is wrong. And b/c of that, they wouldn't realize to tell the doc, and the doc may not notice just looking at them for 5 mins.

    Such a touchy subject, and I do like the idea of calling up asking her for advice, to feel her out on what she is thinking about the child. I will say, our other foster child we had, he had so many delays, and all the while I was thinking, WHY didn't someone else involved in his life step up, and ask why is he like this, b/c it was so obvious to me. And, I agree with Annie, if hubby notices something, then there must be something.

    Hmm...I think I may have totally contradicted myself in this post...saying, she may be o.k....but my gut says, probably not, and I think in some way, you can be and advocate, and a friend to the mom and help. Oh, what a hard thing to know what to do!

  12. If they take the child to the pediatrician for regular check-ups, then they already know!

    I too studied Early Childhood Development, and unless I was close with the family... I don't think I would bring up developmental issues with an acquaintance. Like I said, I am sure if they follow normal check-ups, they already know.

  13. My eldest was the preemiest preemie possible back when he was born - at 26 weeks AND with another life-threatening issue. He was livelier than that when we brought him home from the hospital! They may be a bit delayed (Doctor said to expect him to be "on target" for his due date age).

    What makes you think that they don't realize the baby has issues? I suppose they might just be the sort of people who would not want to talk about it. I am not certain I would! If they have taken this child to see a doctor at all, surely he/she has noticed/mentioned something. That's what all those peds visits are for... That makes me think that they know and are just not wanting it to be the talk of the town. I mean....it might be a bit difficult anyway. No parent wants to bring up their child's inadequacies..... At least in public. Why is it easier on a blog?

  14. gosh that is tough, i think that i would say something along the lines of, how was the baby at the 6 month check up? (if you have that i guess you do) As i hear that premies are always delayed by the amount of time they missed out on, so a 6 month baby is more like a 4 month. Ask her and see what she says. If she didn't go, suggest oh i think you should i mean you know if there was anything a miss they'd be able to help out straight away.....
    Good luck! i have a tendency to just say hay look i think somethings not right with your kid, have him/her checked out....but thats me.


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