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The word "develop" means "to expand or realize the potentialities of; bring to a fuller, greater, or better state."

"Developmental delay" is a term that means an infant or child is developing slower than normal in one or more areas (Anderson, Chitwood, & Hayden, 1997). "Developmental disorder" is a term that means an infant or child is developing in a manner that is slightly or significantly deviant in one or more areas.

The first three years of a child's life is an amazing time of development, what happens during those years stays with a child for a lifetime, and it is therefore very important to watch for signs of delays in development, and to get help from professionals if you suspect problems. The sooner a developmentally delayed child gets early intervention, the better their progress will be.

It is a well-observed fact that many families, especially in our country with its diverse cultures (and languages), may not identify a certain series of behaviors or symptoms as being descriptive of a 'delay' or 'disability'. Often families see their child's condition as temporary or something that could be remedied and it is therefore not uncommon to see families following a combination of 'professional/medical' prescriptions along with home remedies, alternative practices in order to help their child. Opinions vary among members of even the same family in how much weight is attributed to professional, educational, or medical interventions as compared to alternative interventions. Because families have different interpretations of what constitute a delay or disability, even having the child labeled can sometimes lead to misunderstandings and mistrust between them and the professionals who are attempting to be helpful.

The intervention plan for a child with developmental delay should reflect the goals identified and mutually agreed upon by the parents, specialist doctors, professionals, and educators. The learning objectives should include the child's strengths as the foundation. Aim should be on bridging the gap between what the child is currently able to do in his or her environment and what he or she needs to learn to do in order to be optimally successful in the current or upcoming environments. Professionals and families should be realistic in their expectations and implement multicultural practices while designing instructional strategies and materials keeping in mind every child's culture and language. Emphasis should be on the child's development from a more holistic, functional, situational approach, which is more culture specific.

The five primary areas of development in any child include

1.  Cognitive development
2.  Physical development
3.  Speech-Language development
4.  Social-emotional development
5.  Adaptive development.

In order to help parents and others understand who they should approach when any one or more specific areas, mentioned above, is identified as a concern, we have very briefly listed below who are professionals qualified to address the same.

1. Cognitive development (perception, concept formation, sequencing, problem solving, memory, attention and motor planning): PSYCHOLOGISTS, SPEECH-LANGUAGE THERAPISTS (must be specifically trained in cognitive therapy), OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS.

2. Physical development (both in gross and fine motor skills, with particular emphasis to developing purposeful hand function, perceptual-motor abilities and general levels of motor function to aid in daily life skills): PHYSIOTHERAPISTS (work on physical aspects of the body such as muscle tone, improving strength etc); OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS (work on functional aspect such as using body and limbs to perform tasks).

3. Speech-Language development (production of fluent, coherent speech, developing language and communicating one's needs, ideas, and emotions): SPEECH-LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION THERAPISTS.

4. Social-emotional development (inter-personal relationships, exploration, and encouragement of play and practice of social skills in everyday situations.): PSYCHOLOGISTS, SPEECH-LANGUAGE THERAPISTS, OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS.

5. Adaptive development (dressing/undressing, eating, drinking, bathing, toileting, etc. - both in relation to access to, and for, independence skills): OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS.



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