Child Development: Trina

Child Development: Trina
Is your child gifted or behind the curve?

Marc and Trina have four children, including 3-year-old twin daughters, Kate and Sara. "When they were born, I couldn't tell them apart at all," says Trina, "but when they started to talk, I knew right away that Kate was miles ahead. I couldn't understand 90 percent of what Sara said."

She eventually had Sara tested. "Sara does have some speech delays," says Trina. "They also told me she has very low confidence. I was crushed. Of all the things in the world that I want my children to have is self-esteem and confidence." Because Sara can't articulate herself very well, Trina is worried that when she starts school, the other kids will think she's slow.
Marc is also concerned. "Through her whole life she's going to have someone that looks just like her. I don't want her perceived as the dumb one or the one that's shy, or to be second fiddle to Kate," he says.

Trina wants to know: Is there something she needs to do that she's not doing? Or does she just need to relax?

Dr. Phil tells Trina to abandon the concept of comparison. "The fact that they're twins doesn't mean that they're going to develop at the same rate. She may be going through what we call a non-fluency phase and it is temporary, and it doesn't mean at 10 years old or 12 years old they will be at different places," he says.

Dr. Phil explains that the growth charts are just a statistical norm. "That means you took all the kids and averaged them together and got a number of where they should be speech-wise, language-wise, mental functioning ... That's a mythical line. There is no normal child." He explains that Kate seems to be an early bloomer, and Sara a late bloomer. "But you'll notice that they all wind up in the same place, and for that reason, you can't really make a decision at any one time. You have to take multiple measures of where they are. You can't just go in and test the child one time and say, 'Well, against some statistical norm there's a developmental lag there.' That may be true against this mythical line, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with her."

Still, Trina thinks there must be a problem. "I know for a fact that she's delayed. She was delayed and admitted into special needs classes at 3 years old because her speech is delayed," says Trina.

"Well that may be. But it may not be. Don't take those tests as gospel," Dr. Phil tells her.

Trina also wants to know if the fact that Sara sucks her thumb has something to do with her speech delay.

"Highly unlikely, but possible," says Dr. Phil, who advises Trina to be patient. "I think we need to be good observers across time instead of racing them into treatment ... My experience with children is they tend to do what they need to ... And sometimes, particularly when you have twins, one will take the subservient role ... They can take a role where they defer to the more dominant personality and so they don't develop language skills."

Dr. Phil encourages Trina to spend some separate time with Sara. "You can model by reading to her a lot, be careful you don't complete her sentences ever, or learn her nonverbal language and know what she wants so you just react to that, instead of requiring her to produce her own speech ... And I think it's very important that parents understand not to repeat baby talk to the child."

He continues: "And if you're going to see a speech therapist, you really want to encourage them to instruct you on how to do as much as you can outside the treatment environment ... The most you can do at home, the better off you are. But don't get caught up in this curve and don't get caught up in comparing the two. Kate may be the fast bloomer, and Sara may be the late bloomer."