When there are worries about your child’s development, it is indeed hard to know whether they are just developing at a slower rate than other children or will they catch up, or whether it is time to give them extra help. Sometimes this needs to be investigated. Let’s understand what actually developmental delay is and how parents’ support can be just the thing that they need to cope with it.
Developmental delay is an umbrella term used when a young child does not progress as expected. For example, they may be late in talking or slow to learn to walk. In some children it is suspected soon after birth because of feeding difficulties or unusual muscle tone. In other children, developmental delay is only suspected much later when learning or behavioral difficulties surface at school. In older children, terms such as learning difficulty, learning or intellectual disability may be used; although not all children labelled with developmental delay will go on to have a diagnosis of intellectual disability.
Developmental delays can range from minor to something more serious. For developmental delay, there may not be an exact cause to point. If your child has developmental delay, being a parent there are certain things that you can do.
Child development means physiological and cognitive changes that occur during infancy and adolescence. Children are supposed to acquire physical, social and cognitive skills within predictable time periods. It is the duty of the parents to observe if they are reaching these defined developmental milestones by the expected age. Developmental delays are seen in one or more skill areas. Ironically, when a delay is present in one of these skill areas, it is likely to influence the development of other areas as well.
Parents’ role in supporting children with developmental delays:
Parents’ role is very significant as they know their child better than anybody else. Parents should have a fair understanding as to how their children are developing in the following skills areas.
- Communication skills – babbling, saying simple words, repeating, understanding
- Gross and fine motor skills – rolling over, crawling, pulling to stand, walking, picking up objects
- Adaptive skills – feeding, dressing, toileting
- Social and emotional skills– interacting with others, sharing
- Cognitive skills– naming pictures, following simple directions, developing appropriate play skills
A developmental examination is an in-depth evaluation to assess the child’s skills, can identify and measure the extent of developmental delays. The evaluation is done to get an idea of the child’s strengths and weaknesses in all developmental areas. The results of the examination will help identify important elements of the child’s treatment program. Physicians, therapists, teachers, and parents can work together to come up with an appropriate plan that meets the unique needs of the child.
The treatment plan for a child with developmental delay focuses on the areas of concern and it is prepared keeping in mind the child’s strengths and interests. Therapy sessions are an integral part of the treatment plan to develop speech, gross motor movements, and fine motor skills. Parents should take a proactive role in their child’s treatment program. It goes beyond disclosing important information to physicians and therapists, parents should contribute to achieving the overall therapy goals. Skills acquired through short and periodic therapy sessions are unlikely to be retained by young children. Therefore, parents must understand how to incorporate therapy into everyday life and support the child’s progress between formal therapy sessions. Ideally, apart from medical professionals, child care providers and educators, parents also have a crucial role in contributing to the child’s success by incorporating activities that promote skills development.
Once a child has been diagnosed with a developmental disorder, the process of improving that skill should be started without delay. Naturally, the period after a diagnosis is a time for learning for parents. Parents can take steps to access resources on the various forms of developmental delay and their related treatment options. Patience is the key here as it may take time to see improvement in child’s concerned skill areas. It is all the more important for the parents to be consistent in providing the care and support the child to tackle the hurdles on the path with ease.
Parents may wish to take the help of a counselor to address the issues that can come up within the family dynamic when a child is suffering from a developmental delay. Parents should not hesitate to get the help of a child psychiatrist if they think it is needed.
Being a parent of a child who is reeling under a developmental disorder requires a lot of calmness and patience, so stress management is one thing that parents should take into account. Vibe in the family should be positive and relaxed. It is only through parents unwavering support and care that a child can pull through this difficult phase. So parents, be a pillar of support for your child during this turbulent time and as they say “patience is the best prayer”.