Understanding delayed development in children

Children Group

Understanding delayed development in children
Parents usually track their child’s growth through developmental milestones set by healthcare professionals. However, if you sense that your child is lagging behind in terms of development, you might want to look deeper into it. Consistently missing significant milestones could point to an underlying condition that needs immediate attention. 

Therefore, how do parents identify the signs of delayed childhood development and take the next course of action? 

Weak motor skills: Children between the ages of 4 to 5 can perform simple tasks such as holding their eating utensils properly or getting dressed without help. Other motor skills such as walking, running and sitting up independently are hard-to-miss milestones [1].
Speech delays: Your child may have trouble forming simple sentences or pronouncing words [2]. In some cases, your child may exclusively communicate with incoherent noises or be completely non-verbal. This poses difficulties for the child to befriend others and communicate their needs.

Distinct physical features: Some physical features become more prominent as the child develops. Your child may have Down Syndrome if their features include a flat face, small ears, loose muscle tone or a combination of all three [3]. 

If you identify any of the following behaviours or characteristics in your child, consult a paediatrician or specialist for further assessment. 

As a parent, how can you better support your child with delayed development? Here are several tips that you can consider.  

Engage in play: Play is crucial for development. For a child with delayed development, it would be helpful to focus on ways to improve their cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills. Hence, encourage your child to engage in play to build different sensory and cognitive experiences. Playing with building blocks, going to the playground or sandbox, imagining make believe situations, or carrying out simple games such as I Spy, are some fun activities you may consider carrying out with your child.

Be patient and direct: Give your child time to process your instructions and wait for their response. Some of them may not respond verbally, thus, be aware of their nonverbal communication cues such as gestures. Do not feel dejected or hurt by their actions as they need more time to express themselves or open up to you. If they are becoming uncomfortable or stressed, give them space and try again later.

Seek professional help early:
If you notice that your child has delayed development, seek help early on. Early intervention helps to maximise the effectiveness of the treatment given as the child’s brain is most adaptable in the younger years. It also equips the family with the resources to better understand and meet the needs of the child together. [4]

TOUCH Early Childhood Intervention aims to provide targeted and affordable early intervention for mainstream K1 and K2 children with no diagnosis of developmental delays or attendance of EIPIC programme, so that they stand the best chance to improve their developmental progress before being placed in mainstream primary schools.

1. Mauro, Terri. “Are Your Child's Motor Skills on Track?” Verywell Family, Verywell Family, 30 Sept. 2022, https://www.verywellfamily.com/what-are-motor-skills-3107058.
2. De Pietro, MaryAnn. “Language Delay: Types, Symptoms, and Causes.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 4 Aug. 2017, https://www.healthline.com/health/language-delay#symptoms.
3. “Down Syndrome: Signs, Symptoms, & Physical Characteristics.” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/children/understanding-down-syndrome-symptoms.
4. “Parent’s Guide on Early Intervention”. SG Enable. https://www.enablingguide.sg/docs/default-source/publications/parent's-guide---intro-to-ei-(jun-2020).pdf?sfvrsn=5b352827_0