Just like we don’t all grow in height at the same rate, we have different rates of neurodevelopment. This means that the brain develops over time and reaches certain levels of development at different stages of childhood. That doesn’t mean that a child who is a little behind in development will be doomed for life.
Mild delays in development are usually the result of an immature nervous system (which consists of the brain, spinal column and all the nerves carrying messages from and to parts of the body). Here are some signs that can help you identify whether or not your child is a slower developer. Remember that all children may show one or more of these signs. Slow developers will usually show several.
- A history of ‘late bloomers’ in the family
- A premature birth
- Physical or emotional problems in the early months (including a stressful pregnancy)
- Chronic diseases such as asthma, upper respiratory diseases (e.g. ear infections, tonsillitis), viruses and so on.
- Difficulty with social skills: taking turns, sharing, communicating with peers. A child who seems to prefer younger children may be showing a need for more time to catch up
- Difficulties with coordination: skipping, hopping, catching a ball, climbing stairs, cutting, colouring-in.
- Overflow movements shown when a child moves body parts that don’t need to be engaged during a particular movement, e.g. arms flapping when he climbs stairs, tongue moving during colouring-in, feet moving while engaging in a task. This is fairly common in pre-schoolers but shouldn’t be obvious in older children
- Delayed language development
- Difficulty paying attention, easily distracted, struggles to sit still
- Seems overly impulsive for age
- Thoughts are unrealistic, e.g. avoids a situation by believing it will go away if ignored. Typical of slightly older children who avoid homework!
- Birthday is later in the year than most classmates. Boys especially may lack readiness if they are six months or more younger than the majority in their class.
If you are concerned that your child is struggling to adapt easily to school because of suspected neurodevelopmental delays, it is important for you to check this out with an ILT practitioner. Find them on www.ilt.co.za and help your child ‘catch up’ with the rest.
 With thanks to Jane Healy, author of ‘Your child’s growing mind’.