This a question that gets asked a lot in childcare circles. It’s human nature to be concerned about whether your child is developing at the correct pace. I hope that this article will clear up some anxieties for you and help you to understand what steps you can take if you need to.
What is typical development?
The first thing that you need to know is that children all develop at different rates and in their own time. Comparing your child to your friend’s child is never a good idea, as young children are so unique. I will include some links to useful guides and websites throughout this blog post so that you can see roughly what your child should be doing and when. The first useful document is a Parent’s Guide to The Early Years, published by 4Children. Clicking on the following link will open up this document: Parent’s Guide. It is a supporting document to the curriculum used in childcare settings for children under five years of age. It shows milestones that your child might reach by a certain age. Notice I said, ‘might’. This is not exact. The reason I love this document and recommend that people use it, is because it suggests what you, as a parent, can be doing to help your child. We’ve all felt the anxiety of not knowing what to do for the best, well this document breaks it down for you.Early Years Education now focuses primarily on three areas of development: Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development and Communication and Language. These are the areas I encourage you to focus on with your children, as once they are confident in these areas the other stuff tends to fall into place. Use tips from the previous document if you need ideas on activities. Search websites such as Pinterest, these are brilliant for giving you ideas to encourage your child’s development. Although you may find, like me, you can spend hours scrolling and pinning and have far too many things you want to try and not enough time to do them!
I think my child is falling behind, what should I do?
If you notice that your child is falling significantly behind in one, or more of these areas then it’s time to speak to your childcare provider or General Practitioner. Usually, if your child is in an Early Years setting, then the staff would have picked up on any concerns or learning delay before this point. I would always suggest that speaking to the staff is the first point of call. If your child is not in a childcare setting, or you don’t feel you’re getting the right support from them… it’s time to go to your GP. The NHS has some fabulous information on their website about reaching out to them if you think your child may have some additional needs. Check out this link to learn more: NHS Family Support.From this point one of two things could happen. One, your GP might reassure you that everything is normal and to give it some more time. Sometimes it just takes some children a bit longer to develop than others and they just need a bit more time. Or two, your GP might want to run further tests to see if there’s something more going on. This is a link to what would happen next: NHS Diagnosis of Additional Needs.If you are worried about a specific additional need such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, then mention this to your doctor or childcare provider. Usually a diagnosis for something like this would not happen until your child is older than five, as a lot of the traits of these conditions are typical for young children.
My child’s been diagnoses with additional needs, now what happens?
Obviously, there is such a broad spectrum of additional needs ranging from extremely mild to profound and multiple needs. A diagnosis will help your child get the support they need throughout education. A diagnosis is not a bad thing! It enables your child to gain the right level of care and often enables your child’s school to get funding to better help them. What happens next would depend upon the diagnosis. Usually you would be referred to services that can support your child, you could possibly be given activities to practise at home or sometimes medication might be given (this is typically a last resort).
If you’re worried speak to your childcare provider or your doctor. No matter how trivial you think it might be, they’re there to help support you and your child.
Read the Parent’s Guide, linked above, and use it to plan exciting learning experiences for your child!
Join a parent’s group or play group. Often talking to other parents can put your mind at ease.
Try to ignore ‘perfect parents’, you know exactly which ones I mean. From working in schools for many years, I can tell you that their lives are often not as perfect as they seem.
Focus on you and your child. Remember that every child is unique, and this is something to be celebrated!
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post.
For additional information on the topic, please see the links above or speak to a professional.