When Your Baby Isn’t “On Target”


My daughter has always been super mobile, even in the womb! I remember her as a fetus flipping around frequently and jovially jiggling all day, resisting seat belts and making it difficult to move or exercise, especially at the end of the pregnancy because she loved her space, even on the inside. As a newborn, she progressed nicely with her movement, holding her head up and rolling over as expected and she was always on target with her developmental milestones.

Was Our Daughter On Target?

We noticed somewhat of a delay when it came to the big motor skills of sitting up and crawling. Other babies her age had been doing that for a couple of months before we helped her by getting a Crawligator and sitting her up in a tripod position, which seemed to set off a light bulb for her and got her going with sitting up. For the longest time, she would log roll around the house instead of crawling. Logrolling was fun but crawling was cumbersome and seemed to take too much effort. She always found her own way to move around the house and had an attitude of, “Hey, what I’m doing is working so why do I have to do it your way?”

learning to crawl
Our little one had her own way of crawling!

At one year, she was crawling but not walking. A bit of overwhelming Mommy Fear set in, the thoughts of, “Maybe something’s wrong! Maybe she’ll never do it!” “Why do these other babies do it so easily but my baby doesn’t?” She had advanced verbal skills, which the physical therapists later told me developed rapidly in order to help her achieve her goals or get someone else to bring her what she wanted since she had trouble getting it for herself. The pediatrician wasn’t too concerned because she had a precedent of being a little slower in figuring things out.

Help Me Grow

If I could go back and change something, I would have connected with Help Me Grow at this point. If you have Help Me Grow or some other similar developmental disabilities/early intervention services in your area, then you are in luck! They can assess your child and see if he or she is on target or would qualify for services. In my case, this program is already funded by my tax dollars so many hours of services were free. After a certain point, they would work with insurance to pay for services but I did not reach the point where I used enough service hours to warrant insurance getting involved. I think they could’ve potentially helped her move forward earlier and catch up.

As it was, by around fifteen months she was still not walking. All of her baby friends with a few exceptions were walking. I heard naysayers asking me, “Are you sure there isn’t something wrong with your baby?” It was hard to hear things like that, especially from people who didn’t understand and weren’t offering any help or compassion. I swallowed my anxiety about it and kept repeating to anyone who commented, “Nope, she’s a smart little girl. Everyone learns things differently.”

The pediatrician then referred me to Nationwide Children’s and discussed how my child potentially had “low muscle tone”. The physical therapist that we worked with at Nationwide was so helpful and kind, pointing out all of my daughter’s developmental milestones and skills and showing me all of the progress she continually made, which made me feel so proud. I did contact Help Me Grow at that point and they also empowered me, by providing a physical therapist who came to my house and taught me how to help strengthen the leg muscles through at-home play. They never hesitated to allow us to borrow equipment until we no longer needed it. They really went above and beyond to provide us with the equipment we normally didn’t have access to, but it made a big difference.

How Can We Take This Child To The Next Level?

These two organizations working together led us to find the perfect orthotic insert that finally served as the impetus to our daughter walking at eighteen months. The joy I felt at that moment is unparalleled. She threw up her hands and laughed, so happy to be even more mobile and get into everything in the house. We continued some services to work on skills such as walking upstairs, walking backward, and maintaining balance. After each goal was achieved, the professionals said, “How can we take this child to the next level and keep her on target?” They recognized her unique abilities and nurtured me as a parent, making me feel like I was doing the right things and helping her at home. I took her to the Physical Medicine doctor at Nationwide Children’s, who told me that she was developmentally normal and doing very well. She said development is a continuum and as I’d continually told everyone throughout the process, sometimes it just takes people a little extra help before they learn a complex skill like walking.

Every Child Is Unique

If you find yourself in a similar situation, know that it’s not your fault. Sometimes babies have some delays and hiccups. It could be a speech delay, a gross motor delay, or a number of other things. It doesn’t mean that they will never rise above! With the right help, you’ll see that your child can achieve goals. They might not be the same as everyone else’s but that’s okay. Every child is unique. I wish I could tell my past self to never compare my daughter to other children. I should just rely on the professionals’ opinions, the people who know what they’re talking about and exist to support our child and her development.

later walkerI also wish I could’ve considered what she wanted and respected her own personhood. My daughter never looked sad about not walking. She was so happy with the movements she could do and merrily got around the house in her own way. She celebrated her life and reveled in experiences. The word “on target” or “developmental milestones” were not in her vocabulary. She loved interacting with other babies and talking to them. Here I was, imposing my wants and desires on someone resistant to them, becoming a nervous parent and interjecting a problem on someone who didn’t see a problem. If I had been present with her, we would’ve enjoyed the experience of discovering these gross motor skills together instead of me constantly pushing her. She developed on her own schedule and embraced the help from her team of professionals when she was ready to receive it. In the end, I can see that we both learned a valuable lesson from this experience!

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Kristen Scharf
Kristen Scharf is originally from Dayton and attended the University of Dayton for her Bachelor's and Master's degrees (Go Flyers!). She came to Columbus after she got married in 2015. As a native Daytonian, her inspiration for writing for the Columbus Moms Blog comes from Erma Bombeck. She is a licensed school counselor and Certified Orton-Gillingham Practitioner (CALP) who is currently at home with her toddler and baby son and doing literacy tutoring in the evenings. She is proud to be an Army wife. If you're lucky enough to see Kristen out and about, you will know it's her because she will have spit-up on her clothes and she only showered one time this week, though she tries not to look like it. Her biceps are huge because she carries around both kids more often than some other moms do (her favorite toddler tantrum hold is the Fireman Carry). Her current Mom Fantasy is for her daughter to only ask the same question one time per day instead of a million times per day.


  1. This is exactly what I needed to hear! It brings me peace and comfort, as my daughter is not quite ”on target”. I’m glad you said that looking back, you wish you hadn’t compare your daughter to other kids. I will try to do this moving forward. Thank you!

  2. I’m glad I could provide some comfort! It’s stressful when you’re going through it, but it does get better. Babies learn and grow every day and each “baby step” is an accomplishment. Best of luck to you!

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