A child’s growth is more than just physical. Children grow, develop, and learn throughout their lives, starting at birth. A child’s development can be followed by how they play, learn, speak, and behave.
What is a developmental delay?
Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving 'Ta- Ta', 'bye bye' are called developmental milestones. Normally children reach milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving (crawling, walking, etc.). A developmental delay is when your child does not reach these milestones at the same time as other children of the same age. If your child is not developing properly, there are things you can do that may help. Most of the time, a developmental problem is not something your child will 'grow out of' on his or her own. You may need to consult an expert doctor or developmental therapist. But with help, your child could reach his or her full potential!
What is developmental screening?
Doctors, developmental therapists and child development experts use developmental screening to let the parents know whether their child is learning basic skills. Your child’s doctor may ask you questions or talk and play with your child during your visit to the doctor to see how he or she learns, speaks, behaves, and moves. Since there is no lab or blood test to tell if your child may have a delay, the developmental screening will help to tell if your child needs to see a specialist.
Why is it important?
When a developmental delay is not recognised early, children lose out the right type of stimulation at the right time and must wait to get the help they need. This can make it hard for them to learn when they start school. Many children in Kerala have a developmental or behavioral disability such as autism, intellectual disability (also known as mental retardation), or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In addition, many children have delays in language or other areas. But, less than half of children with problems are identified before starting school. During this time, the child could have received help for these problems and may even have entered school well equipped for learning. One can contact the Child Development Centre, Government Medical College for developmental screening.
If there is a problem, it is very important to get your child help as soon as possible. Proper nutrition, exercise, and rest are very important for children’s health and development. Providing a safe and loving home and spending time with your child - playing, singing, reading, and even just talking - can also make a big difference in his or her development.
Early Intervention Services
Research shows that early intervention treatment services can greatly improve a child’s development. Early intervention services help children from birth through 3 years of age (36 months) to learn important skills. Services include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and interact with others.
In addition, treatment for particular symptoms, such as speech therapy for language delays, often does not require a formal diagnosis. Although early intervention is extremely important, intervention at any age can be helpful.
Education and Career Planning
It is very important for the parents to set up career plans and select the right courses for children with additional needs. Certain disabilities may be advantaged and more suitable for certain professions. It is the parent who needs to identify the skill of the child and streamline accordingly towards the career.
With the help of an expert the career interest inventory, aptitude and calibre of the child has to be analysed. Based on the interest, aptitude and caliber the child should be encouraged towards a profession or career. The child should also be encouraged to job shadow the career he finds suitable.
One may schedule career counselling session at the Centre for Disability Studies, Poojappura, in the city to discuss the career planning of children with disabilities. Through career counselling students with disability can begin to clarify their career desires and move forward in their career path.
(The writer is Director, Centre for Disability Studies, Poojappura)