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My child's not keeping up with other kids! What should I do?

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Young child drawing on a sheet of paper

In this article, you will find answers to questions like:

  1. What's normal for ages 5-8?
  2. Should I trust my instinct?
  3. What local groups can help?
All children develop at their own pace. But how do you know if your child might have a developmental challenge or delay?

First, it helps to know what your child should be doing at each stage of life.


For example, children by age 5 can copy patterns, print some letters, cut with safety scissors, recall parts of a story, want to please their friends, and sing and dance around.

By ages 6 to 8, children’s vocabulary can increase to about 2,000 words or more,   according to About Kids Health website.

They’ll learn their left and right, begin to reason (and argue) using words like “why” and “because.” They’ll develop a longer attention span, understand fractions and the concept of space, understand money and learn how to tell time. They also enjoy reading books on their own.


If you notice your child isn’t doing things other children the same age are doing, trust your judgement and alert your child’s doctor as soon as possible.

You also can take action on your own. Observe your child. If you notice over time that your child is consistently not keeping up with friends, you can reach out for help in the community.

“People often think it’s bad behavior or bad parenting,” says Sharon Alexander of Unicorn Children’s Foundation in Boca Raton. “There are programs for children from birth, with no costs to the family. I’m always telling families to err on the side of caution.”

If there is a delay, early intervention often can help a child catch up to peers.


For example, you can call the free 211 HelpLine and ask for Help Me Grow or the Special Needs Hotline. The 211 specialist will ask you questions and usually can find you help within 24 hours. The 211 specialist also will call you back in a few weeks to check on you.

“We don’t just give them a phone number and say, ‘Have a nice life,’ ” says Randee Gabriel, programs manager of 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast. “We call them up. One of the main reasons parents don’t come to an appointment is that they don’t know why it’s important. They may be thinking, ‘I make $7.50 an hour and if I miss five hours of work, I don’t get to buy groceries this week.’ So we tell them why it’s important to go. They know they have a support person.”

Families often have several problems to solve, in fact. The 211 specialists start by helping them keep a roof over their heads, find food pantries and secure help paying the electric bill, if needed. They also ask every caller if they have young children and if they are having any problems at school or home.

“I say to them, we’re free, we’re confidential, and there may be resources out there that we can help them tap into,” says Jennifer Harris, a Special Needs advocate for 211.

The Palm Beach County School District also offers help for children. Start with your child’s teacher and your school’s guidance counselor. If you need additional information or still have concerns, reach out to the district’s exceptional student education department at 561-434-8740.

Whatever your concern as a parent, don’t panic. Palm Beach County has resources that can help.


• Randee Gabriel, programs manager, 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast

• Jennifer Harris, Special Needs advocate, 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast
• Kevin McCormick, director of Exceptional Student Education, School District of Palm Beach County
• Sharon Alexander, chief executive officer, Unicorn Children’s Foundation
About Kids Health

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