Caring For Children With Developmental Delays

Caring for Children with Developmental Delays

This article assures educators that children with developmental delays should not be viewed as outcast or sent away. In fact, these children are capable of learning the material, but may need more time and cues than other children may. The article primarily focuses on children with Down syndrome, and provides a list of strategies that can help these students become successful in the classroom. Listed below are the strategies found in the article(Michael is a factitious name being used for the sake of this example):

1) Look closely at Michael's developmental skills and chronological age. As a childcare provider, do this by simple observation and getting information from Michael's parents. Compare him with other children (in your mind's eye only, please). See what activities are a "best fit" for Michael.
2) Keep Michael's day structured. Have daily routines that help him organize his day. Keep your schedule consistent so that he can learn what to do. For example, if washing hands comes right after small group play and right before snack every day, Michael will learn that. Don't forget that Michael needs free play time, too.
3) Avoid sudden transitions. When it's time to move to another activity, give him plenty of warning and have clear transition routines. Signals for transition should be clear and consistent. You may have to provide a physical cue at first, such as taking Michael by the hand and heading him to the sink. At the same time you might say, "It's time to wash your hands before you eat your snack."
4) Give Michael plenty of time to practice new things that he is learning. He can and will learn, but he needs extra opportunities to master new tasks. A bit of extra staff time is probably needed here, to help Michael practice and learn. You can practice something new with him away from the distraction of the other children.
5) Michael may need cues to help him. For example, make sure that his cubicle is marked clearly with a picture or label that he recognizes. Use pictures as cues, such as a child hanging his coat in a cubicle; gestures and labels will help, too. Using a physical cue-holding his hand, touching his shoulder-may be needed to get his attention.
6) Make sure Michael can try age-appropriate challenges. It is likely that some of his talents are equal to those of his age-mates. For example, he may be able to play on the teeter-totter as well as other children at the same chronological age. Ask Michael's parents for suggestions.
7) Make sure Michael can try developmentally-appropriate challenges, too. The goal is to provide challenges that help Michael "stretch" his skills, but not so difficult that the task frustrates him and he stops trying. Avoid giving him what other kids think of as "baby" toys. Ask Michael's parents and resource staff for suggestions.
8) If a special education teacher or occupational therapist is involved with Michael's family, ask to be involved in the planning process. Child care is a significant part of a child's life-you should be a partner. If you're stuck, or having a problem in a particular area, ask the resource staff involved with Michael's family for advice about strategies that may work.
9) Expect appropriate behavior. Don't let Michael behave in ways you wouldn't let other children behave. For example, you aren't doing him a favor if you let him push or hit another child. Michael has to learn how to get along. You will have to be consistent and clear, but having a development delay is not an excuse for bad behavior. Talk to Michael's parents or therapist about successful strategies.
10) Remember that children with developmental delays are unique and special children, as are all the children under your care. There is no such thing as a group of "typical" children. Look on Michael first as a child, but only one of your special, unique and wonderful charges.
Special need educators will benefit from this study. Teachers will learn ways to maximize learning among student will developmental delays. In addition, these students will benefit because they will be able to socialize with their peers. Before, these students were thought to be unreachable. Now, they can be successfully integrated in a classroom setting.

Submitted by Travis Bouldin