A developmental delay refers to a child who has not gained the developmental skills expected of him or her, compared to others of the same age. Delays may occur in the areas of motor function, speech and language, cognitive, play, and social skills.
Instances of developmental delays and prevention include:
- Inherited characteristics – ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is one of many genetically transmitted disorder in children. Previous research suggests that ADHD could be caused by premature birth, excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco by the mother during pregnancy, or a brain injury. Recent research show that most ADHD is genetically transmitted. Children with ADHD find it extremely difficult to focus on anything for long and control their impulses. They show poor motor control, little awareness of the passage of time, low ability to complete tasks and difficulty in developing social skills. Children with ADHD benefit from prescribed drugs and special training like: breaking task or skill into small step by step parts, structuring a daily routine of activities for the child, promoting cooperative activities rather than competitive, involving other children in supporting the child with ADHD.
- Congenital abnormalities – these disorders are produced when the developing being is exposed to something damaging at certain stage of development in the womb e.g when the mother: contracts a disease like HIV, takes a harmful or social drug like alcohol or tobacco, is exposed to harmful chemicals, or is physically harmed. Intending parents should support themselves to protect the foetus by keeping themselves healthy before, during, and after conception.
- Birth complications – labour that last for too long, infants who weigh less than 3.5 kg, and preterm babies are at risk of delayed development. One way to reduce birth complications is by supporting pregnant women. Pregnant women should have regular check ups and get information about how to stay healthy throughout the pregnancy. To aid the development taking place, the right environmental condition for the womb needs to be created. Regular exercise and eating healthy can help achieve normal maternal weight and contribute to fetal health.
- Birth conditions – the birth condition affects the child psychologically. The child’s transition from the womb to the outside world might cause him some physical suffering that he would perceive as unwelcoming. An environment with too much noise and light might seem hostile to a child used to the dark and quiet womb. Harsh contact with adults, clothes and objects could also be disturbing for the child. The baby should be allowed a few minutes to get used to breathing by his/herself before the umbilical cord is detached from the mother. The baby should be kept close to the mother to continue to feel her warmth and body sounds similar to the womb, to reassure the child of the mothers presence and protection. Hospitals should be made to make birth experiences more pleasant for both mother and child. Newborns should be handled with care to avoid birth trauma of regression and repression. Regression is a condition of reverting to an earlier mode of behaviour in the new born child. The baby shows signs of going back in development rather than forward.
- Language – Children who are spoken to and encouraged to talk, speak fast and develop language while children who do not hear words or are not spoken to are at risk of delayed or lost speech. The child is sensitive to the rhythm and flow of the sounds of words even before understanding what they mean. The child needs a rich exposure to language as follows:
- To see adults enjoy talking, singing, writing and reading.
- To see and hear exaggerated and clear pronunciation of individual sounds.
- To hear a wide vocabulary of words.
- To hear correct sentence constructions.
- To be be listened to patiently.
- An environment rich in age and ability appropriate activities and materials.
- A fulfilled child expresses joy and contentment, loves to talk, contributes in groups and activities.
- The unfulfilled child is withdrawn, unhappy, does not join activities cannot settle to work and concentrate, cannot express self and is often misunderstood, can get very frustrated and resort to negative behaviour.
- Perception – The brain cells are not fully formed at birth and can only be completed when the brain receives information from the senses. The more experiences the infant has from using his senses, the stronger the brain development. Children without exploration experiences do not learn, which leads to learning gaps and deterioration of brain cells.
- Movement – Posture is the most fundamental of motor actions because every movement implies a change in posture and shift in balance. Posture must be sufficiently stable before other motor skills can emerge. An infant learning to sit, folds over because head and trunk control is initially so poor. Over time, more control allows the infant to sit independently. Each new acquired skill makes others possible, a child who can sit unsupported begins to use his hands to explore objects. He begins to perceive object appearance and size, and people’s intentions to grasp the object. An infant not allowed to experience and practice movement, is slow to the next stage of development and continues to fall behind in physical and mental development. For example, Infants can begin learning to drink from a cup by about six months. Cup drinking requires more coordination of tongue and palate muscles, and helps to develop the ability to chew and swallow solids. A child who has moved off the bottle to drink from a cup starts thinking about coordination to regulate the flow of water into his mouth while a child on the bottle does not learn anything new and advanced learning like chewing and swallowing becomes difficult. The earlier a child masters an act, the faster the brain makes a learning path that branches out to accommodate new learning.
Children with developmental delays have to deal with energy sapping deviations which dissipates the energies for a strong personality.