Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Date of Birth and Cognitive Development

Let me start out by saying I am no expert on this topic.  I have not conducted a double blind study to verify my theory.  What I have done is chatted with other Moms and it seems I am not the only one who has noticed this.  Your next question may be, what is it that you are talking about?  So let me delve in.

When your child is first born and developing through his first year or even first 2 years of life there are obvious developmental differences - both cognitively and physically.  For instance, when you put 2 babies together, one 6 months and one 10 months, it would be expected that the 6 month old would be close to sitting up and the 10 month old would be pulling themselves up on furniture to stand. 

Now move that ahead 4 years.  One child is now 4 years and 6 months old and the other is 4 years and 10 months old.  In many ways we assume that those differences have now washed away with age.  You see, if your child is 3 by September, they can now enter their first year of preschool.  All the children are now in the same classroom being taught and expected to learn the same thing.  Because of this, I assumed my 4 year old should know and be able to do all the same things as all other 4 year olds. 

Due to this thinking, I first thought the differences I was noticing between Lachlan and his cousin were all in my head.  Gage, Lachlan's cousin, was born 4 months before Lachlan.  I kept on seeing things that Gage was doing via Facebook pictures or in person when together for family gatherings and I would almost panic.  Oh no, Lachlan can't do those things yet.  Is it because he is homeschooled?  What will my family think, when they see Gage can do those things but Lachlan can't?  Will they doubt my skills as a teacher?  Now I must say, my family is one of the most loving non-judgmental families there are.  But I still jumped to these thoughts and worries.

So what would I do?  I would get out a writing sheet and try to see if Lachlan could do what Gage was doing.  But he couldn't, and he would get mad, and we would get frustrated and it was just not fun.  What's sad is that by now, I should have figured out that this 4 month difference has not just vanished.  I have been noticing it for years.  You see Gage would start saying more words and I would think the same thing, I wonder when Lachlan will be talking that much.  Here is what would happen.  4 months later, Lachlan would start talking just as Gage was talking.  I mean 4 months exactly!  You know how kids sometimes just wake up with a whole new skill set, like it literally happened over night. 

I think I never gave my observations any validity because I thought it was just me seeing these things.  After all, I didn't hear anyone out there having a conversation about it.  Then, 2 weeks ago, I sat down with Stacy for a little homeschool support group time and fellowship.  As we were talking, she brought up this same thing!  She said that Joy, her 2nd grade daughter, has a friend that was born 6 months before her.  She said that Joy herself, would often compare herself to her friend and wonder why she couldn't do certain things yet.  Stacy has begun telling her; Joy, just wait and see, in 6 months this will be a synch.  It seems the date of birth of your child, does still make a difference.  7 years and 2 months is different than 7 years 8 months.  It just is. 

As she was telling me these observations of hers, my eyes bugged out.  What!  You noticed that too!  Finally, confirmation.  Stacy said, that it has been confirmed over and over again as she has seen it unfold between the two of them.  Then Stacy went on to share with me that she was very young for her class in school.  She graduated high school at 17.  She had a hard time learning things that her classmates seem to pick up on easily.  She expressed that this really began to bother her, as she thought, maybe she just wasn't as smart as them.

This just brings to light a whole new reason why I appreciate homeschooling at this point with Lachlan.  The peer pressure from a classroom, in small portions, I think, can be great motivation for a child.  To watch a classmate write his name is going to be great motivation for your child to also want to try.  But if they try and fail, because well, they just aren't there yet.  Is that helpful or hurtful?  Sure you can explain to them that they have had longer to practice than you, just keep practicing.  But I am not sure that explanation could fully wash away the feelings of failure in the heart of your little one.

Now that Stacy has seen this between her daughter and her friend, I know it has helped her feel a little better about her struggles through school.  I can say, now that I am not the only parent who has seen this, it makes me feel better about where Lachlan is at in school and more comfortable with really going at his pace.  I just wonder why more people aren't talking about this?  I do hope this simple post can start a conversation.  So if you are a early childhood development expert, please chime in.  If you are a Mom or Dad, please chime in.  I want to continue this conversation.

I am curious about a few things.  First of all, if Stacy felt the difference through high school, then when does the age difference vanish?

I would also love to hear more stories from parents, if you have them. 

Lastly, I would love to hear how teachers respond to this in a classroom. 

So in my humble opinion, if you are worried about the differences between your child and one whom is a bit older, just relax and give it time.

As a side note, please keep up on all your regular check ups with your Pediatrician.  They will check your child to make sure they are meeting all basic developmental markers.  This observation is in no way denying that there can be other reasons for cognitive delays. 


  1. I am with you on this. It is talked about a lot in one forum: sports. It's well documented that the older a kid is (closer to the cut off) when training starts the more ahead they will be... THEIR WHOLE PLAYING CAREER. Think about a boy who is 13 vs. 14 on a little league team. I was held back and went through kindergarten twice. So I was 18 when I started my senior year and I can tell you I do believe it was a huge advantage to me.

  2. I think it totally depends on the kids. Hadlee is about 4 months younger than the other little girl I baby sat, but was ahead of her in almost everything.

  3. I did think about the outliers when I was writing this but didn't want to get too long winded. I can't help but think of a little girl at church who is quite a few months younger than Lachlan. Yet she practically was born speaking full sentences. She even will write the names of the other children on their paper for them if you tell her which letters to write after she gets stumped from sounding it out on her own. She is ahead of her time, that is for sure.
    This post could have also been titled, Due Date and Cognitive Development. My Niece was due between Gage and Lachlan. But she arrived 3 weeks early only 2 days after Gage was born. As we watched them develop she would always be more in rhythm with her due date than her birth date.
    The other interesting thing that I didn't write in the post is that Amber and I both had babies due on the same day exactly. Lachlan ended up being born first and Tuesday, two days later. It has been amazing to see them be so in sync. Amber and I would literally call each other when they were babies. I can't put Lachlan down, he is nursing all the time, I think he is going through a growth spurt. Amber "oh my gosh, Tuesday too."
    Of course there are always exceptions. But I just can't help but notice a pattern.

  4. As a teacher, I can say we never considered the age of the children. Every child was treated as an individual and we worked with his/her own personal strengths throughout the year. It didn't matter if the children were born on the same day or not, each one of them learned differently and at their own rate. With some of the struggling kids, we might've said, "Well, he's still young yet, but I'm sure he'll pick it up soon," but other than that, age (due date) wasn't used to compare.