Children can have various types of delays: cognitive, motor, speech or language delays. A developmental delay is when a child does not meet established benchmarks in development for their age in their speech, language comprehension, motor or physical skills.
There are many different benchmarks that kids should meet for development. For example:
- The child should be able to sustain a conversation. By the age of 5, they should be very good at this and can talk about many different types of subjects and themes.
The child should be able to tell easy or simple stories.
The child can do simple show and tell activities.
The child is into pre-literacy activities, such as enjoying being read to, can answer many questions when being read to, enjoys sound play (such as rhyming) and starts to make letter/sound correspondence.
The age of 5 is an important milestone before “school.” Kids need their oral language skills intact, plus hours of being read to. They need to be talking beyond the level of sentences and able to tell stories.
Child Care providers can get information on the internet or from resource and referral agencies about what the typical benchmarks are so that they can be familiar with children’s development. Act quickly if you suspect a delay to get the child assistance as soon as possible. Don’t wait more than 6 months or so past the benchmark.
If you suspect a developmental delay, observe and document what the child does and says. Watch the way a child answers a question when being read to. Can the child sit and be read to? Notice how the child makes his or her needs known. Do they do it verbally or by using gestures? If the child is using too much “gesturing” and not enough verbal communication, this may be a sign of a developmental delay.
After observing, it is important to speak with the parent regarding your concerns about the child. Share your observations with the parents and ask them if they have seen similar behavior at home. Try avoiding putting a label on the child, but simply state what you’ve observed. Let the parent know in a caring way that you’ve observed their child is having difficulties and that it might be a good idea to be evaluated and direct them to resources for support.
Remember that this is a sensitive topic for parents so be caring when you speak with them. It is important not to “scare” the parents but talk about prevention and ways to enhance the child’s skills so that they are good communicators and achieve academic success.
Parents of children ages 3 and older should contact their local school district and request an evaluation. The school district is required by law to conduct an evaluation. Once the evaluation is complete, they will make a recommendation of any special education or services that the child may qualify for. All of these assessments and services are completely free of charge.