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Global Developmental Delay and Assisting your Child in Improved Growth and Development

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While all parents want to give birth to healthy bouncing babies, more children are being diagnosed with developmental delays. The purpose of this article on Global Development Delays (GDD) in The Counsel-ling Magazine Global Development Delays (GDD) is to assist parents on child growth and development in modern day living.

Global Development Delays (GDD) is a condition in which a child takes longer to reach certain developmental stages than other children at their age. This might include learning to walk or talk, basic movement skills, learning new things, speech, and effective interaction with other people, including social and emotional interactions. GDD happens if a child is delayed in four main aspects, that is, cognitive, sensorimotor, speech and language and social emotional interactions. Put simply, a developmental delay implies that the child does not reach key developmental milestones at the expected times.

Global Development Delays (GDD) is a condition in which a child takes longer to reach certain develop­mental stages than other children at their age. It is important to remember that every child is unique and will therefore develop at his or her own pace. However, if a child has a problem, getting an early diagnosis and assistance can greatly help in order to ensure that the child gets the right support and appropriate in­terventions.

Admittedly, it is the dream and hope for every parent, particularly the mother to have a healthy and strong child who is able to reach all the developmental milestones within the targeted or right age and thus enjoy normal or regular social and school life. In that case, a family looks towards enjoying a happy time with the new member of the family. However, some children may experience certain delays in reaching various growth and developmental milestones. It is always important to remember that every child is unique and will develop at their own pace. In that case, a developmental delay might be short term, though it can escalate and turn out to be a sign of a long-term problem. In other cases, the delay in certain children may be temporary (short-term) and thus can be overcome with additional support and therapy. However, in certain other cases the delay may be more significant and the child may require longer and continuous support. If a child has a problem, getting an early diagnosis and assistance can greatly help in order to ensure that the child gets the right support. This is because long-term developmental delays can also turn out to be developmental disabilities.

In the past decade, there have been an increase in certain growth and developmental skills. Notably, there are several delays in speech and language skills, effective social interaction and motor skills. As a child specialist, I started conducting assessments since 2000, that is slightly over 20 years ago. I have also noted with a lot of concern the increase in cases of developmental delays. In the past years, very few kindergarten and nursery school children were referred for assessment. This is significant because teachers are often placed in an advantageous position to notice children with growth and developmental issues. This arises chiefly from their three positioning, that is, (1) their training as teachers including in Child Psychology, particularly human growth and development; (2) the teachers’ interaction with various children vertically and horizontally, that is, the teacher can easily notice similarities and differences among the children in the classroom and from others she or he has encountered; and, (3) teachers are also parents and hence can notice certain things in a child as they have their own children .

Teachers are often highly placed in an advantageous position to notice children with growth and developmental issues. This arises chiefly from their three positioning, that is, (1) their training as teachers including in Child Psychology, particularly human growth and development; (2) the teachers’ interaction with various children vertically and horizontally, that is, the teacher can easily notice similarities and differences among the children in the classroom and from others she or he has encountered; and, (3) teachers are also parents.

Lessons on Child Growth and Development which Every Parent must Understand …

Children are at their early stages of lives. Therefore, most children are alert, energetic, vibrant, expressive and highly active at home and in the classroom. They will respond to various stimuli including objects, persons, events and things. Children are fast in listening and telling stories, picking and dropping objects, playing, running up and down and all. Indeed, most children appear hyperactive rather than dull, disinterested and downcast. On the contrary, children often enjoy the company of others including in cooperative play with their peers. Hence, children should be percolated in a variety of outdoor activities both at home and in school. This way, the child gets tired though she or he feels happy and excited about what they are doing and learning.

There has been a significant shift in child play at home and school activities as more children are being identified with developmental delays. Often, some parents and later teachers notice the irregular behaviours and refer most of these children for assessment by Early Childhood Education (ECD) teachers, assessors or children specialists. Indeed, many children are now joining pre-school before acquiring requisite functional language skills. This is marked by delayed speech, poor social interaction and a short attention span. Child specialists and early childhood teachers are increasingly getting concerned with this trend. Observation done in various kindergartens and schools within Nairobi and other urban centers shows that a big number of children joining reception classroom at the age of 2 or 3 years are non-verbal, or have a few or no words, shows limited interest in different toys, are poor in social interactions and generally appear rather clumsy.

For us as parents, teachers and child psychologists, there is need to identify the causes of these developmental delays as well as various intervention strategies in order to assist children to achieve effective growth and development. Developmental and learning assessments reveal that most parents are very busy working or doing businesses to an extent that they have little or no time at all for the children. As a result, most children are in turn left in the hands of the house helps (house girls or caregivers) often at home. It is significant to point out that most house helps are school-drop-outs with little or no training in child care. House girls or caregivers who understand anything about children is knowledge that merely comes from looking after their siblings or gained in earlier employment.

In addition, it is significant to note that house girls are actually house helpers and are hence charged with several other domestic chores and household duties and responsibilities. These include cooking, cleaning the house, washing clothes and utensils, wiping the car in the morning, assisting the child or children with homework, and generally keeping the compound tidy. Others have to take care of livestock (cows, goats, chicken, dogs, pigs). Yet, some are also expected to do some little farming, milking, going to the market and of course looking after the babies. These house managers are literally expected to look after the house and take care of the children; feed them, clean them and keep them safe. With little or minimum pay (which is either delayed or paid in parts), these house managers are also expected to do laundry, cleaning, shopping, cooking, beddings and run other errands at home.

Dr. Geoffrey Wango, a Counselling Psychologist explained this phenomenon to parents in one of the Parents Workshops: “To do their work, the house managers wake up at 5.00am and sleep at 11.00p.m or midnight, that is, they work for 18 to 19 hours. This implies that they are tired, weary, quarrelled, deprived of sleep, overburdened and exploited. House helps have to find an easier way of doing some of the work, and one of the most accessible areas is in ‘taking care’ of a child or children.” Dr. Wango explained that most parents had outrightly told him that they have now accepted that house helps have to look for the best ways of taking care of the child or children. “Of course,” says Dr. Wango, “They need time to do the chores, sleep during the day, make phone calls, watch movies or soap operas and all.” Dr Wango cautioned, “Remember that most house helps are young girls with little or no knowledge on child care though admittedly, a few people are now going for the older more experienced women” Dr. Wango called it, “Target priority One, the child or children.”

To effectively do their assigned work and duties, most house managers wake up at 5.00am and retire to bed at 11.00p.m or midnight, that is, they work for 18 to 19 hours. This implies that they are often tired, weary, quarreled, deprived of sleep, overburdened and exploited. House helps have to find an easier way of doing some of the work, and one of the most accessible areas is in ‘taking care’ of a child or children.

Says Dr. Wango, “It is a very sad and pathetic situation. The house girls learn to ‘take care’ of the child or children by boiling milk or making tea and food for them child or children and give it to them. The child or children have to ‘sort’ themselves out. In that case, the child or children is made to sit on the bed, or in front of the television to watch cartoons and movies for long hours as the house manager ‘gets her duties’ done. Sometimes, they are given toys (those who are lucky to have toys (several or a few for a house girl who is a little bit caring) or smart phones to play games with. They boil the previous day’s food (they rarely have time to make lunch or meals), blend food or feed children with a bottle till the children are five or six years.

Parents think that the child’s school work is important and often they entrust the house helps to assists their children with school work. It is worrying that most parents think that the ‘good’ house girl assist their child with their school work. They don’t! Unknown to the parent, most house girls rarely engage in social conversations or physical play with the child leave alone assisting with homework. Never! They simply fill in the answers. Like Dr Onala says, ‘this is a calamity at home!’ Watching television, computer, IPad or phone the whole day does not necessarily stimulate the brain development of speech and language skills.” Dr. Wango concludes, “these children are actually technically abandoned. When the parent gets home, the child is weary and exhausted and is just sleeping. The child is physically and psychologically abandoned and tormented thus rendering them helpless. Therefore, they can’t speak! It is a physical and psychological illness.”

Parenting and Child

Parents must take firm action in order to assist their children in growth and development. The parent is the first and foremost teacher. The parent teaches the child language and other social skills including how to walk, talk, dressing, toilet use and all. You will notice the abandoned children because they are usually lonely, isolated and frustrated. When children start talking, some of them use cartoon-like language and rarely engage in productive social conversations. They in turn fail to develop motor skills, creativity and emotional understanding. When they join kindergarten, they withdraw to play alone, they cannot take turns in play or join in any creative or imaginative play activities. Blending food and continuous bottle feeding deny them the opportunity to chew food, they have no one to talk to and they think that life is made that way.

Chewing is important in developing oral muscles, coordination and oral sensory processing. Lack of chewing including continuously giving milk (house girls love giving milk and juice as the child is contented) may lead to a delay in articulation and development of speech. In addition, gluing the child on the bed, seat and before a television or computer deny them an opportunity to run around, climb, jump and participate in active physical activities, which are necessary for motor development. In addition, moving about enables the child to explore his or her environment leading to stimulated brain, innovation and creativity. This rejection of the child will much later lead to strikes and burning of schools because the child loathes the school since they do not understand the meaning and purpose of schooling or life.

Too much sitting and use of screen reduces social interaction, limits physical movement and other activities (motor skills). This includes the excessive use of television, internet, computer, Ipad, smart phone.

Social relations enhance our emotional and psychological health. Children who are denied social relations and the opportunity to engage in social interaction, including engaging in various indoor and outdoor creative and imaginative play activities are likely to delay in developing foundational skills in life. Subsequently, they may be diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay (GDD) that is triggered by social deprivation.

Enabling Child Growth and Development through enhanced social relations

Children require growth and developmental stimulation right from birth. The first 1,000 days are particularly very important and stimulation should be continued to beyond six years. Developmental stimulation from the first day is done through various activities, including sulking, bathing the child, play, smiling and talking to the child, holding the child’s hand, a good feeding programme, relieving the child when they are uncomfortable and monitoring the child’s health. The mother and other caregivers must spend quality time with the child, including talking to him or her and giving physical and emotional support such as holding the child and reassuring him or her when they are a bit uncomfortable. Besides talking and smiling to the children, tell them interesting children’s stories, laugh with them, play with the child and allow them to talk to you. Always find time to be with the child for social interaction, including through playing with different toys. All these fosters creativity in the child.

It is highly recommended that you reduce screen time (computer, phone, television or Ipad). Most parents think that programmes and games are important since they appear to distract the child or stop them from crying or getting bored. Instead, find appropriate toys for the child to play with rather than gluing them before a television screen. You can also take the chance to go out on a picnic or take the child on a nature walk. Additionally, it is helpful for the child to interact with the other children. Allow them to run around, ride a bike, climb trees or play with balls, clay and pets if they are available. However, be cautious about pets so that they do not harm the child. Allow enough time for sunbathing and engaging in outdoor activities for them to get vitamin D. Feed the child with a balanced diet and at the same time, reduce consumption of sugars and refined carbohydrates. It is best to allow the child to eat food that requires chewing like vegetables, fruits, tubers and meat.

In all these, it is important to seek help if you notice any signs of delayed in development in your child. Any issues with a child should be resolved by seeking help from professionals. Among the first people to consult include your doctor such as General Practitioners (GP) or pediatrician. It might be necessary to talk to an occupational therapist, child therapist or an educational assessor. In all, the professional should be able to observe the child, evaluate their performance in certain tasks and give you recommendations on what should be done at home and in school and other interventions.

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Dr. Geoffrey Wangohttps://counsel-lingmagazine.co.ke/
Many people often ask me about my personal stand, my passion in life and how I got into Counselling Psychology and why in particular the establishment and writing in their favourite publication, The Counsel-ling Magazine. Colleagues and students, participants in various seminars and others suggested that I should include some information that would assist clients, practitioners and students to perhaps establish a career, or even assess and evaluate their ethical, moral and professional standards. Well, this allows for personal reflection and I feel it wise to include a few remarks about my fervour on counselling, mentoring and education as well as various aspects of life.
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