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Do you know the invisible signs in children aged 3-5?

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When you pick your child up from kindy, or watch them playing in the playground, it’s natural to compare them to other children their age.

“That child can do the monkey bars easily. My child can’t”. “My son can’t unpack his Kindy school bag. He really struggles with the zips.”

Pre-school, kindy and pre-primary are such vital years for learning, with new skills developed as children experience different environments: early education centres, school, at playdates, and getting out and about.

Because of this, the ages of three to five are a common time for identifying signs that children may need extra support. Your child’s early educator or teacher might raise concerns with you, or you yourself may have a niggling feeling that something isn’t right.

Sometimes the signs of developmental delay can be tricky to spot. As parents, you want to have the right information and support so that you can seek help if your child needs it.

What is developmental delay?

Between ages 3 and 5, children typically reach universally-recognised milestones in their development. A delay or no presence of these milestones might indicate a child has a developmental delay.

The signs of developmental delay can be tricky to spot. In the video below, we’ve captured play-based activities that highlight some of the ‘invisible signs’ of developmental delay.

Does your child have trouble with tasks like holding a pencil?

When should a child be holding a pencil? Young children start showing an interest in holding a crayon around 12 – 18 months. As children develop, their grasp becomes more refined and they start to draw recognisable shapes and patterns.

In the video, the first child does not grasp the pencil properly, and cannot draw a person in basic lines and shapes. The second child grasps the pencil and draws a basic person figure, with an identified head and body. Drawing and handwriting calls upon many skills, such as cognition, fine motor, vision, and planning. For example, understanding what a person is and imagining what a person looks like to draw, planning how to start, physically controlling the pencil, etc. This could highlight that the child has difficulties with one or several components of drawing or handwriting.

Does your child engage in pretend or imaginative play?

Imaginative play, also known as pretend play, is when your child is playing with a toy in a pretend way, acting a scene they have experienced or imagined. Pretend play also includes playing with a toy in a meaningful and appropriate way.

The first child does not respond to the instruction “Show me how you play”, and does not engage with the toolkit in an appropriate or imaginative way. The second child recognises the tool kit and its purpose and pretends play using consumed knowledge of how to use a tool kit.

Does your child have trouble following simple, one-step instructions?

Following simple, one-step instructions is the ability to comprehend and respond to a command that addresses and responds to the instruction.

The first child plays with the shapes, however, does not sort them into colours, as requested. The second child follows the verbal instructions and visually arranges the shapes by colour.

Does your child have any aversions to certain textures?

If children avoid particular sensory experiences (such as different textures, movement activities, sounds, or smells) it can impact on their ability to engage in their environment and develop new skills.

The first child has an aversion to the playdoh texture and pokes at the playdoh. They do not play in a meaningful way. The second child uses their hands to smash and roll the playdoh, creating new shapes. They engage with the playdoh in a creative manner.

This video features examples of developmental delays, however, is not an exhaustive list. Please contact us to discuss other concerns.

How we can help

As a parent, you know your child best. If you recognise any of these signs and have concerns that your child may have developmental delay, we can help.

With the right support and advice, early intervention therapy can help your child to reach their goals.

We have a range of highly trained experts in early childhood intervention, including occupational therapists, speech pathologists, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and more.

We work with you and your family to create specific ways to help your child reach their therapy goals.

It’s never too early to seek information.

For more information, contact us today. If you’re ready to make a referral, complete our online form.