Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Tiptoeing through the developmental levels

If you're a little obsessed with charting your child's rate of development -- and it's hard not to be, in a society that is so very fond of benchmarks -- here's a site that will feed your need to wonder and worry. Part of the Washington State Department of Health and Human Services' Web site for foster parents, the Child Development Guide allows parents to navigate through "normal characteristics" in yearly increments for the areas of physical, intellectual, social, emotional and moral development. You can start at your child's chronological age in any area and then work backward (or forward, I suppose, but not in my household) to pinpoint your young one's exact developmental level. The accompanying parenting strategies can then be used with confidence.

I've been saying for a while that my fetal-alcohol-affected nine-year-old is really more of a 4-year-old emotionally, without really knowing what that means. So I took a look at the emotional characteristics of four-to-five-year-olds and -- sure enough! -- there were the behaviors we've been so bothered by recently:
Exhibits a great deal of name calling; can be demanding and/or threatening. Often is bossy, belligerent; goes to extremes, bossy then shy; frequently whines, cries, and complains. Often tests people to see who can be controlled. Is boastful, especially about self and family. Is beginning to develop some feeling of insecurity.
So then I clicked forward to see what we might be expecting next, and ... well, the five-to-six-year-old description could pretty well have applied to him, too. And the six-to-seven. And really most of the levels I looked at. So it's not exactly a precision instrument. But you know you're going to go spend a few hours there anyway.

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