A child is identified as developmentally delayed if he fails to achieve developmental milestones within the generally accepted time frames. For example, most children begin walking between the ages of 9 months and 15 months; they are able to walk by themselves by the time they are 2-years-old. A child who is not able to walk independently within a few months of this age would be considered delayed in this area. There are four main areas of developmental concern: social/emotional, cognitive, fine/gross motor skills and language/speech.
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Establishing procedures and routines is one of the best strategies for developmentally delayed children. Structure and predictability in learning give a sense of stability to kids who already know or sense that they are different from other children. Parents need to work with teachers to establish similar expectations, so that school and home habits are not totally incompatible. For example, if the parent knows that her child works well with a sibling, she might ask the teacher to assign peer helpers in the classroom. If the teacher requires that children read or look at books silently for 20 minutes, the parent could emulate this at home.
Children with developmental delays will benefit from hands-on learning. Manipulatives are educational aids that supplement and reinforcement specific skills. Alphabet letter tiles, wooden blocks and plastic shapes are materials that help children by providing a tangible example of a concept. According to the educational website, Math and Reading Help for Kids, manipulatives help delayed students understand new math facts by representing numbers with shapes or two and three dimensional drawings. Handling these manipulatives also improves fine and gross motor skills.
Developmentally delayed children benefit from multiple learning strategies. Worksheets and handwriting activities will not be effective for kids who have difficulty holding a pencil for an extended period. Alternative strategies like drawing pictures or writing short phrases give children a way to express themselves and build confidence in their writing ability. Success in small tasks will motivate them to work harder to improve writing skills.
Developmentally delayed children may have speech or language difficulties. They may not articulate sounds correctly or know enough expressive language to communicate effectively. Engaging in frequent discussion is an effective strategy. Parents and teachers can read aloud, then ask for comments and opinions about the book. The goal is to make children feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with adults and peers.