Detecting Learning Difficulties Early and What You Can Do About It

There is more hope than ever for children who suffer from developmental issues.

A woman we’ll call Diane was the mother to two children. Her first child, a boy, was very active and communicative from a young age. When her daughter arrived, her personality was very different from her brother’s; she was mild mannered and very content to just observe, and she was growing slower than other babies her age. She resisted solid foods, and while she made plenty of sounds, she wasn’t forthcoming with her first words.

Diane took her daughter in for a routine check-up at around nine months and asked the pediatrician about her daughter’s progress. She was referred to a specialist who determined that the little girl was slightly behind developmentally. An occupational therapist provided exercises and games that Diane could play with her daughter daily to improve cognitive function and engage her in play. Within two months, this little one was starting to feed herself peas, do “frog legs” to prepare for crawling, and smiling and responding with more energy.

Happily, Diane’s daughter is making steadfast progress and is largely caught up with her peers; Diane credits that progress to the early diagnosis and specialized care her daughter received.

 

Many children still fall through the cracks in terms of normal development, partly because the parents don’t recognize there is a problem.

While we are still only starting to understand the causes and nature of developmental impairments, the last 10 years of neurology have taken a quantum leap in terms of early signs and practices that can assist young children toward correction. So what does it look like when your child is having difficulty? The following are normal milestones according to the experts in the field of psychology and special needs therapy.

Newborn to six months: When babies are first born, they have no control over their muscles, they move reflexively, and learn to control movement over time. As their eyesight develops, allowing them to focus further and further away, they will also become curious and reach for things, eventually holding up their heads, lifting up on their forearms, and rolling over.2 Y our baby should also respond to sounds involuntarily and recognize familiar voices.

Six months to a year: At this stage they are grasping, reaching more actively, and getting ready to crawl. Crawling comes in first, and babies that skip this phase and go right to standing can have trouble with their eyesight. It also helps coordinate the different hemispheres of the brain, so encourage it by placing a desired object near them and even show them they can go get it.3

 

Early detection is key since the brain has an extraordinary capacity to rewire itself.

One year to two years: Walking age varies widely, so don’t freak out if your child is still working it out around 14-16 months. Fine motor skills are going to increase so you will see baby holding smaller objects by pinching instead of grabbing, experimenting with textures, and getting more adept at things like finger painting and clay.4 We can promote fine motor development by letting them use a spoon for meals and play with tactile crafts.

Two years to six years: This is the stage where language acquisition is really in full swing, so within the bounds of typical development, children will be eager to express themselves. Fine and gross motor will continue to bloom, with hand-eye coordination that allows activities like playing catch, running, and climbing. They will start to favor a hand, and ignore the lore that lefties are handicapped; there is no research to back this up.

Some things to remember about development: while there is a normal curve that typical progress follows, every child is different and it’s normal for most kids to lag behind temporarily in one area. What you want to look for are groups of behaviors that are absent, and talk to your baby’s healthcare providers at regular intervals where they can assess and make sure everything is within the bounds of normal growing up. Modern medicine now gives us a reason why we should play with our kids, why we should let them be messy and experiment– because these fun activities encourage learning itself.

 

 

References:

  1. http://learningdisabilities.about.com/od/infancyandearlychildhood/p/first6monthdeve.htm
  2. http://learningdisabilities.about.com/od/learningdisabilitybasics/tp/SignsofLD.htm
  3. http://www.babble.com/baby/crawling-is-crucial/

 

 

 

About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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