Developmental delays: how to help your child build skills

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About developmental delay

Young children with developmental delay (or global developmental delay/intellectual disability) experience delays in thinking and everyday skills. They may have delays in several areas such as their motor, language and social skills. They find it harder to lớn learn, which means they need extra time and help to learn new skills. They may find instructions with several steps hard lớn follow. They can find it challenging lớn manage their emotions and behaviour. Young children will vary considerably in their development. Some children will seem to lớn show delays but then ‘catch up’, & early intervention can often result in improvement in thinking và everyday skills.



What might be some strengths?Many children with developmental delay enjoy play and learning through play.Children may show lots of interest in activities that involve play.They may have good fine and gross motor skill development through play.

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Where might you provide support?Children with developmental delay may have trouble with how quickly they can think & their ability khổng lồ understand. They might not understand instructions if they are given a lot of information at once. They may take longer khổng lồ learn new skills. Structure & routine may help them. They can be very social & friendly, and lượt thích talking & spending time with other people. However, sometimes, they might stand too close or be overfamiliar with people.

Get child’s attention before communicating. When giving instructions or talking with children kiểm tra that you have their full attention before beginning. This can be done out loud or with a gesture. Be clear and specific. It can be helpful to lớn give clear và specific instructions about the task và the behaviour expected. Use visual instructions. Visual instructions about a task or behavior may be needed for some children. Consider demonstrating the task or asking another child to lớn demonstrate. You can also use a visual schedule, poster or đoạn phim to outline or mã sản phẩm the task. Some children may find it easier if they can use gestures. Some children may need khổng lồ point to an answer instead of talking.
Combine learning social skills with adult-led learning. Consider demonstrating a social skill which can be used during child play. It may help khổng lồ pair a child with a child who can demonstrate và prompt.
Provide lots of opportunities for children khổng lồ work or play together. Children with and without developmental delay can get to know each other and build friendships through playing và working together. This also helps children learn through watching others. Music can encourage friendships. Consider pairing children with different partners for musical activities each week so that all children have a chance to lớn get to lớn know each other.
Praise & reward.

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Children may learn well when there is immediate praise và reward for positive behaviour or correct performance of a skill. Consider offering rewards that liên kết to a child’s interests.

Routines help a child understand how to lớn behave. Children often feel more secure when they know what lớn expect.
Some children might lack confidence. Praise efforts và encourage participation. Use our anxiety resource toolkit lớn recognise and support child anxiety.
Avoid background noise & distractions while giving instructions to lớn help all children hear and focus on you. You might need khổng lồ face the children away from distractions behind you.
Some children might need simple instructions which may need to lớn be repeated lots of times. Use simple words and repeat.
Talk to parents và the child’s tư vấn team khổng lồ find out the best way khổng lồ work with and support the child. Parents can help you understand a child’s unique strengths & areas they need more help.

Early childhood educators can teach children khổng lồ treat others with care, empathy & respect. Consider playing games where children work in pairs or small groups to practice a social skill such as asking or offering khổng lồ share và asking for or offering help. Respond to children in a warm and positive way. For example, you could ask them lớn help you with activities. This creates a safe và secure environment for children.
Music sessions where children cooperate or play with each other can foster a sense of belonging in children. Consider asking children khổng lồ have a different partner each music session so that they play with different children each time. To lớn build social skills that are important for social connection, play games where children work in pairs or small groups khổng lồ practice a social skill. This could be asking or offering to nói qua or asking for or offering help.
Strategies outlined in other sections that increase social engagement, identity or communication are likely lớn impact child wellbeing.
Planned activities such as nhatroso.comanised play activities or music sessions where children cooperate and play together can help children become effective communicators.

Some children with developmental delay may have difficulty communicating that they are in pain or unwell. Watch for signs of pain such as grimacing. Encourage gestures or other methods of communication lớn work out what may be happening.
Some children with developmental delay may not know how lớn tell an adult if there is an emergency, or what to bởi in an emergency or emergency drill. Consider making time for demonstrating và practising what to lớn do.
Giving children choices in their work may make them more motivated. It may be helpful to lớn show them a positive behaviour, give them clear instructions so that they know what is expected, và provide reward và praise. Picture cards or stories about social situations can teach children social skills.
Some children with developmental delay may need extra help with toileting. Discuss with parents how best to tư vấn them.
A child with developmental delay may need extra support to move from the early childhood education và care setting to another setting (i.e. Another early childhood education & care setting or primary school).

Relevant resources

Visit our resources page for a range of resources that can help to create inclusive education environments for children with disabilities and developmental challenges. AllPlay Learn’s AllPlay Learn’s stories can help children with developmental delay become familiar with the early childhood education và care setting and some of the skills they need lớn participate in these settings. Other relevant resources for children with developmental delay are:


About AllPlay

AllPlay is a world-first initiative lớn create new pathways for inclusion for children with developmental challenges and disabilities so they can play, learn, dance & connect into the community.AllPlay brings research, sport, dance and education together so kids of all abilities can participate, including the one in five children who have a developmental challenge or disability.


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The AllPlay program was founded in năm ngoái by Professor Nicole Rinehart at Deakin University. In 2021, it became part of Monash Education"s School of Educational Psychology and Counselling.