Transitions: Knowing What is “Normal”

As a parent, you sometimes wonder if your child is “normal.” In the second post of our “Transitions” series we talk about what’s normal and developmental stages children pass through as they prepare for school.

We are in a blog series called “Transitions” designed to walk parents of children with hearing loss through the process of transitioning from early intervention to early childhood education in formal school settings. In this post we’ll talk about the developmental stages children pass through as they prepare for school and ideas to think about for this transition. Is my little one behind? 

It’s a question we often hear. Some parents find themselves in a situation where they’re the only ones in their family or immediate community who have a child with hearing loss. That can make it tough to benchmark development or feel confident in how their child is progressing. One important thing to know about early childhood development is that while all children tend to pass through the same stages, when they hit developmental milestones, and how quickly they move through them, can vary dramatically from child to child — regardless of that child’s hearing ability. 

It’s important to remember that there’s a wide range of what’s considered “normal” for kids — especially children under five. On “average” children take their first steps around age one, but that means half walk before their first birthday and half do so after. One baby may walk at 9 months, another at 15 months and both children are considered “normal.” While one parent might feel particularly proud and another a little worried, there’s no advantage to the early walker. Both children (and both mothers) are doing just fine! 

The same is actually true of literacy. The “average” boy or girl will learn to read independently around six and a half, but some will start as early as four and others not until seven or later. While literacy is important and we want to take the development of literacy skills seriously, research doesn’t actually show any advantage that early readers have over later readers before third grade. 

In other words, there’s a lot of room “under the tent” for children to develop at their own pace. We don’t need to rush a child beyond what they’re ready for, for fear that they might be left behind. The goal of early intervention and early education is to prepare a child for kindergarten — and success has historically been measured by whether children with hearing loss are moving into preschool at 3 and kindergarten at 5 — but there is some new thinking on early childhood development that’s impacting all parents of young children during those developmental years — and it suggests that rushing over readiness may not be beneficial to the child. 

Transitions happen for every child at a different pace and at different times. Sometimes it is at their birth date or the start of a school year but transitions also happen because of a household move, job changes or because parents want a different care or learning environment for their child. Whatever the transition, it is important for parents to understand their child’s developmental levels and the impact that will have on the next learning experience. No matter what the transition may be on the horizon for your child, we have a few ideas to help make that experience positive and successful.

Strategy for successful transitions