Preventing and Treating Gross Motor Delay
I’m grateful to the early intervention program in my state for their assistance and education. Here are some pointers distilled from my experience:
Use equipment judiciously. If you’re the parent of a young baby, think about the amount of time your child spends in bouncy chairs or car seats instead of in situations where she can begin to develop good core strength. Don’t be a nut about it, but take Baby out of the car seat when it’s practical and reasonable. And most occupational therapists would prefer if an Exersaucer never made it onto your wish list. “Babies shouldn’t be spending a lot of time in equipment that puts them in positions they’re not ready to be in,” says Le Ray.
If there’s really nothing to worry about, don’t worry. “There are a lot of different ways to be not crawling,” says Le Ray. “If a baby is on his belly pushing up and doing things toward crawling I would be less concerned.” If you observe progression in your baby’s activities, chances are things are right on track.
But if you are worried, look into it. “Any time you don’t see change week by week—if they seem stuck—then I would make that call,” says Le Ray. “Or if they’re developing patterns outside the norm [scooting on their bottoms, for example] you should call.” Early intervention services vary from state to state, but a little Googling will likely give you the information you need about your state, or your pediatrician’s office will be able to refer you to the right person. “Parents shouldn’t hesitate to call because they’re afraid of what they’re going to hear,” says Le Ray.
Part of what I liked about my early intervention experience is that it gave me a complete overview of Josie’s development. You may have gross motor concerns but come out reassured about the social or fine motor development. If there really is no problem, they’ll tell you that, and that assessment will mean a lot more coming from a team of experts than from your mother, your neighbor, or the well-meaning clerk at the grocery store.
If your baby didn’t crawl, don’t freak out—get down on the floor. Some babies, it’s true, do stand up and walk at a very young age, and you can’t exactly knock them down like a bowling pin. “But even if babies don’t need the crawling to get them walking they need it as a foundation for later,” says Le Ray. “There’s nothing wrong with a child who can walk doing crawling activities.” Play games that involve getting down on the floor. Create obstacle courses with low stools or giant pillows. Encourage siblings, if there are any, to play on the floor with the youngest child.
If older children who didn’t crawl start to exhibit signs of upper body or core weakness—trouble with writing, working with scissors, sports that require upper body strength—and you’re concerned, bring your concerns to the attention of the school, your doctor, or an outside occupational therapist. “Some schools will remediate with occupational therapy,” says Le Ray. “They’ll put children through ‘crawling exercises’ in the guise of sports games.”
The advice we most often receive as parents is not to lose sleep over things we can’t control. In many situations that’s true, and the fear of falling into the hyper-parenting trap means that parents of this generation are often torn between wanting the best for their child and wanting to retain a modicum of sanity in the most bewildering job there is. But in this case I’m glad I followed through. The six months of early intervention services Josie received helped her to develop the right muscles in the right order and put her on path toward sound physical development. And the minute Nancy showed up at our door and told me everything was going to be fine was the minute I stopped worrying.