Perception Bias: Is this resulting in delayed identification of Speech Deficits?

They say that there are 3 sides to every story, right?  Your version of the truth is based on what you’ve experienced, not just in the present but also in your past. 

Your knowledge, past experiences, feelings, and beliefs all play a part in how we perceive/interpret situations.  

As parents, you will become or already are, well versed in the routine “well-baby” checks that help to monitor the health and development of your baby.  The pediatrician will ask you a checklist of questions to ensure that your child is “on the right track”, but can we really trust our own perception? We know our children better than anyone else, so why wouldn’t we be able to accurately answer all of the questions that they want to know?  Well, let’s talk! How many times did your child make a sound and you knew they wanted a drink? No one else could tell you what she said, but as mommy and daddy, you knew for certain she wanted some juice in her favorite pink sippy cup. What about when he wanted his favorite blanky, how did he ask for it?  What about her favorite toy, what did she say? I bet you can remember all of those cute little unique ways of communication.  

Now you’re sitting in the pediatric office, super proud of all the little things your baby has accomplished over her first year of life!  The pediatrician begins to probe. “Tell me what words Mikah is able to say?” With a huge smile on your face, you begin your list….mommy, daddy, cup, blanky, more, cookie.. and the list goes on.  If the pediatrician were to ask her babysitter or grandma, would they be able to provide that same list of words?? Are we really listing the words he/she can say or just what “we” know that they want?  Is our perception (interpretation) the same as grandma’s perception? Our experience with our baby has led us to perceive that around 11am when she lies down on her cover, reaches up, and say “Bah” that she is asking for her favorite blanky.  At grandmas house around 11am when she lies down on her cover, reaches up, and says “Bah”, grammy scurries quickly to the kitchen to get her bottle. How are their perceptions so different if the child is actually using a word to ask for what they want?  

Being able to produce syllables and use gestures (like pointing) to make requests is definitely a wonderful skill that all babies need to develop, but we need to be very careful not to eagerly interpret them as words when tracking developmental milestones.  Inaccurately interpreting and reporting more words than the child can actually say could delay the identification of deficits. Early detection and treatment is critical and can significantly improve outcomes and lessen the negative effects it can have on the child’s development.  Also, it is beneficial to identify delays and deficits early because there are programs dedicated to ensuring children receive the appropriate services that they need. These services may even be free of cost. For example, if identified before the age of 3, he/she will be eligible to receive “free” services from Help Me Grow.

So, where do we begin? How do you know what’s considered “typical development”?  Since we are blessed with instant access to information, your answer is just a click away!  Here are a couple of links to get you started.

I would also recommend that get others involved in your assessment.  Ask grandma, the babysitter, or a close friend who is frequently around your child to fill out the checklist. This way you can compare your perception to the perception of others to ensure you are accurately reporting.  When I was monitoring my children, I would also make additional notes in each section on the checklist form if there were additional words or skills that my baby had demonstrated. I then took the checklist with me to the “well-baby” appointment to combat the roadblocks of “mommy brain” (smile) when put on the spot.  

Let’s get real, no parent wants their child to have anything “wrong” with them.  We pray for this perfect bundle of joy that does everything when they are supposed to, but can I challenge you to change your perspective?  Instead of thinking about the negative, the thing that you consider is “wrong”, why not think about how each of us are just individuals. Nothing is “wrong”, we all have our strengths and weaknesses.  We all work to better ourselves and that seems to be an ongoing pursuit.  

                         “The eyes only see what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”

–Henri Bergson

Let’s have a clear vision and an open mind to ensure that our babies/children are reaping the benefits of early detection and intervention!

                      ~Signing out powerful parents, Catch you next time! ~


Tiffany Star Skillern-M.A, CCC-SLP

Author | Speech-Language Pathologist| Family Advocate

FB Page: crEATe: Family-Centered Pediatric Feeding Support Services

Book:  Relentless: A Parents’ Pursuit for Peace available on

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