In my years of experience as a Special educator and a parent, I can’t agree more to the thought that a child’s education and development begins at home. Parents are the primary caregivers and the child’s first teacher. Having said that, the school plays a pivotal role in any child’s life. Hence it becomes imperative for the parents and the teachers as a whole is recognizing the early signs of delays in the child’s development and academics.
Early physical, emotional and social development provides the foundation upon which language and cognitive skills develop. Here are a few examples:
Physical- This generally refers to the gross motor and fine motor skills like crawling, walking, running, sitting, standing, Balancing, riding a bicycle, writing, climbing, buttoning shirt, tying shoelaces, scissoring skills, dressing and undressing themselves, writing, holding a pencil, drawing shapes, and other self-care skills.
Emotional and social- Recognising and self-regulation of emotions like anger, aggression, happiness, excitement, frustration, distress, empathy.
Language skills- This is basically the LSRW skills, L- Listening, S- Speaking, R- Reading, W- Writing. These skills are important for a child to be successful in school and beyond.
Cognitive skills- Example: Attention, memory- short and long term, logic and reasoning, processing skills. These are the skills the brain uses to think, learn, read, remember, pay attention, and problem solve.
The question here is “Does the child outgrows developmental delays?”. The answer to this is “NO”. The child doesn’t outgrow developmental delays but can make considerable progress through early intervention. Developmental delays to lookout can be cognitive, social, emotional, speech and language, the fine and gross motor in nature.
Cognitive delays- This may affect the child’s intellectual functioning interfering with the child’s awareness and causing learning difficulties. This becomes more apparent only when the child attends school.
Social and emotional delays- For example, have trouble in making friends, communicating with peers, they may have trouble understanding social cues, initiating communication with others, or carrying on two-way conversations. They may also have difficulty dealing with frustration or coping with change. When the environment becomes too socially or emotionally demanding, children with developmental delays may have prolonged tantrums and take longer than other children to calm down.
Speech and language delays- Children with this type of speech delay may have trouble identifying colors, body parts, or shapes. Others are expressive language disorders, in which a child has a reduced vocabulary of words and complex sentences for his or her age. A child with this type of speech delay may be slow to babble, talk, and create sentences. Often, a child with a speech delay has a combination of receptive and expressive delays.
Fine motor and gross motor skills delay- Delays in motor skills interfere with a child’s ability to coordinate large muscle groups, such as those in the arms and legs, and smaller muscles, such as those in the hands. Infants with gross motor delays may have difficulty rolling over or crawling; older children with this type of delay may seem clumsy or have trouble walking up and downstairs. Those with fine motor delays may have difficulty holding onto small objects, such as toys, or doing tasks such as tying shoes or brushing teeth or even writing.
Minor differences in the above-said milestones aren’t caused for concern but if it continues for a longer period of time, that should definitely raise concerns and should be remediated immediately. Delays can be caused either in one of the above areas or a few.
Many parents and caregivers worry that their child’s delays are somehow their fault, but this is not the case. Having said this, there are a few risk factors to consider. The developmental trajectory during the preschool years is determined by a combination of the child’s internal physiological influences as well as environmental influences. For e.g.: it can be caused due to pre-natal, post-natal causes, environmental issues or any of the medical conditions. Even if it is not clear what’s causing the delays, early intervention often helps kids catch up.
If you’re anxious about your child’s developmental, share your concerns with your child’s doctor at infancy or your child’s teacher at school. Your child’s doctor or the school may recommend an evaluation /detection. Early detection and intervention are important in helping kids develop skills. Living with a child with developmental delays can be challenging, but help is available. In India, all states have early intervention centers where treatment and therapy depend on which area of development are delayed and the trajectory of interventions range from speech-language pathology, Occupational therapy for physical development, behavior therapy, and social skills training.