I can say from first hand experience that developmental delays do not always mean learning disability. A developmental delay is exactly that a delay. The sooner it is caught and treated the easer for the child to catch up with their peers. If the delay is not caught then it can become an overwhelming hurdle a child has to struggle with. Even though it is not a learning disability it can still have a large impact on all aspects of a child life, their socialization, self-esteem, and their ability to move to the next level or stage of development. One developmental delay can cause other delays. For example if a child is delayed in speech, this can delay the child’s social development, because they have a problem talking with their peers, it also affects their self-esteem. It is also very hard to relate to a child that points and screams for things instead of trying to say what they want.
Often the same types of delays are grouped together. Communication delays, socializing delays, potty training delays, and self-care delays are all linked together. It is very easy to see how if a child cannot talk or get people to understand them it would affect the other areas of their development. It is frustrating for both the child and the parents. It is such a big issue that in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada we have a Government run program called Early Words.
Early Words is the umbrella organization of Hamilton's preschool speech and language services for young children. Parents, childcare providers and other professionals working with young children can call for information about children's speech and language development and workshops. They have a web site, www.ascy.ca/ew_ages.htm, which will let you compare your child’s development from 3 months to 6 years with what is considered to be normal development. On top of that they tell you what you can do to help your child develop.
As stated on the Early Word web site - Early speech and language skills help your child to tell others about their ideas and feelings, wants and needs. Difficulties in communicating can lead to frustration and social or behaviour problems. Learning to communicate is the foundation for learning at school. Research has also shown that early development of language is important for academic success, for understanding the teacher, learning to read, write and do math, and for developing relationships with teachers, peers, and others that come to be a part of the lives of our children. One in ten children in Ontario will need help developing their speech and language skills to get ready for school.
Early Words has your child’s hearing tested to identify delays that are caused by hearing problems. Then a paediatric doctor sees your child and tracks any developmental delays and helps identify if there are any other causes for delays, such as a learning disability as they are treated differently.
I would take my son to a play at an Early Years Centre from the time he was a year old. Early Year Centres are places that you can take your child from birth to 7 years of age to play with other children, socialize yourself, and take part in programs and activities. They have classes on how to make toys, to how to be a parent and every thing in between. Classes to promote child development and child/parent interaction. I.E. Early sign language so you can talk with your child before they speak clearly, Mother goose which is singing and talking with your child in a large group, potty training, baby massage and more. However, part of the mandate of Early Years is to get information about programs and services that are available for young children to the families with young children. As well as giving access to early years professionals, like health nurses and art teachers, at the Early Year centres.
Why is this important? Because I was going to the Early Years Centre I was able to get information and guidance about where my son should have been in his development. I was able to find out that my son was not on track and was directed to the right program, Early Words to get my son help. He was tested at about 1 ½ years and found to be delayed and was put into a speech program and therapeutic daycare with in a few months. When he was 3 he was delayed in some areas by about 2 ½ years and we were told to hold him back from kindergarten. You child must be potty trained, speak, and be able to read and write a little before they can go to kindergarten in Hamilton, Ontario. After a lot of hard work, by him and the professionals in his life, at 4 ½ he is only delayed by about 6 months and getting better every day. He is expected to catch up with the other kids so that he will be going to senor kindergarten next year.
I do not know what I would have done with out Early Years and Early Words. I thought that my son might have been learning disabled not delayed. These two programs have helped so many children get the help they need and prevented kids that were just learning delayed from being labelled learning disabled. So many children do not get the help they need in the first few years of their lives and end up struggling to keep up with other kids, or end up being seen as learning disabled. Please take the time to look at the Early Words web site. If you do see any delays in your child’s development take your child to a paediatric specialist and find out if there is any thing you can do to help your child. There is so much that can be done if a delay is caught in time, if people can just identify it in time to make changes. A child with a learning delay does not have to be labelled learning disabled and struggle for the rest of their lives.