What’s your number?

One of Helen’s favorite questions to ask is: What’s your number?  What she means is: How old are you?

Her “number” is three, and she aligns her expectations accordingly: she wants 3 candies, 3 rides on the swing, 3 episodes of her favorite show and so on.

I totally understand.

I used to have similar expectations.  I’d see a child, sum up their approximate age and arrange my expectations.  So, when I saw a five-year old who hit and refused to share or a ten-year old who seemed whiny and noncompliant, I’d think  Geez, that child really needs to act his age!

Of course, this was usually followed by the assumption that the cause of all this rested squarely on the shoulders of said child’s mother.

Then there was Helen.  And I learned that brains and bodies don’t always grow in sync.  The age we see, the one that’s obvious, is usually a child’s chronological age. How many birthdays they’ve had.  What’s much less obvious (and what so often looks like misbehavior) is a child’s developmental age.  For most kids, they’re the same.  Matthew, compared to his same-age peers, is ahead in some areas and behind in others.  But these things combine to make him a typical eight year old boy and he acts as you’d expect.  Helen, not so much.

At her formal evaluation last year, her chronological age was three.  Her developmental age (at least in her abilities regarding social interaction) was at the level of an 18 month old. That’s a big gap.  That’s also why what so often seemed like misbehavior was likely her very best effort…and mine.

So, now I know better.  And when I see that child and think  He should really act his age!,  I quickly remember that may be exactly what he’s doing.


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