Child Development Concerns

Developmental Milestones

If you are concerned that your child’s development seems to be slow, use this milestones checklist to track and record your child’s development.

If your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or if you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts, talk to your child’s doctor and share your concerns. Don’t wait. For tips on sharing concerns about a child’s development with your doctor, click here.

When you call your child’s doctor’s office, say, “I would like to make an appointment to see the doctor because I am concerned about my child’s development.” Be ready to share your specific concerns about your child when you call. If you wrote down notes about your concerns, keep them. Your notes will be helpful during your visit with the doctor.

Ask For a Referral  If you or the doctor thinks there might be a delay, ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist who can do a more in-depth evaluation of your child. Doctors your child might be referred to include:

  • Developmental pediatricians. These doctors have special training in child development and children with special needs
  • Child neurologists. These doctors work on the brain, spine, and nerves.
  • Child psychologists or psychiatrists. These doctors know about the human mind.

Get an Evaluation

At the same time as you ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist, contact the closest Ontario Early Years Centre. Ontario Early Years Centres are designed to meet the needs of all parents with young children. Each Centre is linked to child and family health and social services in the community. Staff at the Centres can refer parents to other services as needed. The focus of the Ontario Early Years Centre is to help all parents give their young children the best start in life.

If your child is 3 years old or older, contact your local public school system. Even if your child is not old enough for kindergarten or enrolled in a public school, call your local elementary school or board of education and ask to speak with someone who can help you have your child evaluated.

When you call an Ontario Early Years Centre or your local elementary school or board of education, say, “I am concerned about my child’s development and would like to talk with someone about having my child evaluated. Can you help me or let me speak with someone who can?” Be ready to share your specific concerns about your child. You will also be asked for some general information about yourself and your child (your name, your child’s name and age, where you live, and more). Write down who you speak to, the date, and what was said; you might need this information later.

Recordkeeping Worksheet
 Use this recordkeeping worksheet to help you keep track of your notes:

While You Wait
Unfortunately, families may have to wait many weeks and months before they are able to secure an appointment with a specialist or to start intervention services for their child’s developmental problem. This can be a frustrating time for parents who want answers and help immediately.

If you find yourself in this situation, there are some simple things you can do today and everyday to help your child’s development.

Make the Most of Playtime

Interact with your child as much as possible. Read books, sing songs, play with toys, make crafts, do household chores, and play outside together. Talk to your child: label items, point out interesting things, tell stories, comment about what you see and how you feel, and explain how things work and why things happen. Your child may not always seem to be listening, but he or she may be hearing more than you think. For more tips on making the most of playtime, click here.

Find Support

Reach out. You are not alone. Here are some organizations that can help:

Parents Helping Parents (“PHP”)
PHP strives to improve the quality of life for any child with special needs of any age, through educating, supporting and training their primary caregivers. Families become empowered and thereby effective as advocates that are there throughout the lifetime of the individual in need of supports.

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario
Provides guidance to parents and persons with learning disabilities in order to assist them in understanding and coping with learning difficulties. The LDAO Resource Directory of services for persons with learning disabilities is available in print and on the website.

Ontario Association for Families of Children with Communication Disorders
Provides support to families of children with communication disorders. Offers family support groups and provides advocacy and advice as required.


Visual Development

Of particular interest to parents, due to the importance of the 3R’s (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic), is the visual development of their children. For a checklist of visual developmental milestones – a parents’ guide to children’s normal visual development from infancy to preschool – click here.

Most parents are intuitively aware of what the Ontario Ministry of Education has asserted on its website concerning reading:
“Many young children experience some kind of difficulty learning to read. For many children, reading difficulties can be identified in Kindergarten or Grade 1 and can be prevented or substantially reduced, but often they are not. Research findings on early reading difficulties are very clear: children who continue to experience difficulties in Grade 3 seldom catch up in later grades. The consequences are well documented. These children are at risk of failing school and dropping out, and they may have limited career opportunities in adulthood…It is essential to identify reading difficulties by Grade 1 and to put appropriate supplemental interventions in place immediately. In this way, reading problems can be tackled before they become entrenched and before repeated failures affect children’s motivation and compound their difficulties in learning to read and write.”

The importance to some parents of correcting a perceived reading problem is so acute that they are often influenced into spending a lot of money on potentially useless visual training, glasses, lenses and eye exercises.

Irlen Syndrome a.k.a. Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (“SSS”)

The theory behind SSS is that some of the signals sent from the eye to the brain become garbled and/or delayed. The problem seems most pronounced when it comes to reading. The Irlen Institute believes that the colour of the paper affects the outcome of what the brain “sees”. If a screening demonstrates SSS, then an Irlen diagnostician will often recommend tinted glasses.

Although there is anecdotal evidence that tinted lenses have helped some children with reading difficulties, there is much disagreement among researchers of whether or not SSS really exists. For more information on this subject click here.


Dyslexia is often erroneously thought to be the symptom of a visual problem. However, as stated in a Joint Technical Report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, “visual problems do not cause dyslexia. Scientific evidence does not support the efficacy of eye exercises, behavioral/perceptual vision therapy, training glasses, or special tinted filters or lenses in improving the long-term educational performance in these complex pediatric neurocognitive conditions.”

Dyslexia is actually a language-based learning disability. According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), “dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. Studies show that individuals with dyslexia process information in a different area of the brain than do non-dyslexics.”


Literacy and Numeracy

The Ontario Ministry of Education recognizes that a solid foundation in literacy and numeracy gives students the widest range of choices in school and beyond. When students develop strong reading, writing and math skills early in life, they are less likely to get discouraged and drop out of school later. This is why the Ontario government established the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat in 2004 to help boost student achievement.

The Ministry also recognizes that additional and appropriate tutoring can help students learn the skills they need to be successful.   In fact, the Ministry has provided modest funding for a tutoring program in some elementary schools.  Inspiring Tutors provides in-your-home, one-on-one tutoring in York Region by Ontario certified teachers for all Ontario subjects to students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12. For more information, or to request a complimentary, in-home consultation to determine the tutoring plan best for your student, click here.