A developmental delay can be caused by a number of things whether it be genetics, illness, accidents, or a disability. A developmental delay can present in a number of ways as well. Every child is going to be different, even if they have the same diagnosis.
Educators should be prepared to work with the child’s parents, medical professionals, or anyone else in their network in order to provide the best support that they can. If the child is receiving a therapy of some kind, then it could be appropriate to ask what steps you can take in the classroom to assist. Taking the time to understand what experiences the child may be going through outside of the classroom can greatly impact the quality of care that is provided.
The following are some suggestions to assist with developmental delays:
Predictable Schedule - Children with Autism, or many other developmental delays, will benefit from a predictable daily schedule that involves the same activities and routine every day. However, it is also important to add new activities in order to foster growth and development. New activities should be short in length at first and the amount of time increased gradually as the child becomes comfortable.
Practice New Tasks - The idea that practice makes perfect is completely necessary when working with children who have developmental delays. When a child has difficulty completing a certain task, work with them step-by-step daily until they can do it on their own. Continue to have them practice the task periodically to maintain their ability to perform and make sure to keep it fun!
Count Down to Transitions - Use visual timers so that children know how long they have left with an activity. This will also help to avoid the child feeling as though they were caught off guard.
Show Instead of Simply Telling - Lead by example by showing students what you would like them to do while you verbally explain to them. This way they are presented with the information in two forms (visually and verbally) and they are more likely to succeed by imitation.
Use the Student’s Interests - Incorporate toys, games, and books in the classroom that appeal to the individual student. If the child likes to play by themselves, perhaps see if another would like to join in on their favorite activity and ask the child questions about it. Let the child lead you in the “correct” way to play with the toys and create a relationship building opportunity. The items can also be used as positive reinforcement as they work towards new and difficult developmental goals.
Be Aware of Frustration – Getting to know a child over time will help you to realize what situations they find frustrating so that you can act before behavior escalates or becomes violent depending on the child. Knowing the signs that frustration and anger are going to escalate will give you time to step in and talk to the student about how they are feeling and possible ways you can solve the problem together.
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