What is normal?

I get asked this question a lot. I actually have a love / hate relationship with the question as well. It implies there is a “right” way. We all travel our paths at our own pace and our kids development is the same. It is a marathon and not a sprint. It feels a bit like in the world of child development and parenting we can get caught up in the ‘what to expect when we are expecting’ and beyond.

Truthfully for most children if they are loved and nourished and have adults delighting in them then their development will progress at their pace. At their speed. In my work I see children that may have a different developmental path who participate and function perfectly well in their family and community and then there will be others who may have in comparison a negligible difference who may be really frustrated and struggling. So “normal” is a function of our environment and our expectations.

However, as a specialist in child language development I know that there are some general markers that can offer  guidance. Especially if families are concerned and unsure.

As a parent I know sometimes we need to know when to seek help. There is a time when supporting a little one’s needs does become bigger than what we know. So for families looking for some guidance “norms” have their place. Right now for me as a parent of a few teenagers I am seeking the “what is normal behaviour” for this age group. I know I feel peace when I can say “oh yes, this is normal for a 12 year old”. When my girls were small and having speech sound difficulties it was calming to know how to support them to move into the next stage of communication and language development.

I am all about avoiding putting kids into ‘boxes’ but I am also about supporting parents to feel confident as they build their child’s language and communication skills. I believe that we support our kids one small moment at a time.

So I guess in the end life is a balance and sometimes it is good to know if what we are seeing and experiencing with our child’s development is following a typical path. If you are keen to know more about “what is normal” then you can get my “Is this normal? Typical milestones for speech development birth to four years” here.