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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Important Milestones in your Child's Development





What doctors and child development experts refer to as “developmental milestones” are just specific things that most children can do by a certain age. Children reach milestones in many areas – in how they play, learn, speak, and act. These milestones act as checkpoints in a child’s development and give parents and professionals a general idea of what to expect your child to be able to do at a given age.  From the very start, young children are aware of their surroundings and interested in exploring them.  Even from early infancy, babies are active learners, gathering and organizing knowledge about their world and learning about themselves.
All children develop at their own pace, so it is impossible to tell exactly when your child will learn a new skill, but developmental milestones will serve as a guide to indicate when particular skills are generally achieved. There is a “range of normal limits” for reaching milestones, and during this timeframe professionals can predict when most children will learn different sets of skills.
Milestones develop in a sequential fashion which means that a child will need to develop some skills before he or she can develop another. For example, children must learn to sit before they can learn to stand. Each milestone that a child acquires builds on the last milestone achieved. Not reaching a milestone at all, or not reaching one within the range of normal limits, can be indicative of a developmental delay in a particular area.
There are different types of developmental milestones – physical (fine and gross motor), cognitive, social/emotional and communication/language skills.

Physical milestones pertain to the development of both gross (large) and fine motor skills. The large motor skills are usually the first to develop in a young child and are used in sitting, rolling over, crawling, standing and walking. The fine motor skills develop later and require greater precision for tasks such as picking up small objects (like Cheerios), and holding spoons and crayons.

Cognitive milestones refer to the child’s ability to think, to learn and to solve problems. Very young babies learn by tracking things as they move with their eyes, and by turning towards sounds that they hear. Slightly older babies learn about cause and effect – for example, that pressing a button on a toy makes it light up and make noise. By the time a child is 2 years old, he or she can usually point to pictures in a book and label the picture, while a 4 year-old can be expected to have basic counting skills.

Social and emotional milestones pertain to a child’s ability to express their own emotions and to respond to the social interactions they have with other people. For example, a 6 month-old child should begin to recognize familiar faces and a 2 year-old should be starting to play with other children.

Communication and language milestones refer to the child’s verbal and non-verbal communication skills. For example, a 1 year-old may be waving bye-bye while a 5 year-old may be speaking in complex sentences and telling simple stories.

What if my child does not meet a developmental milestone? Remember that that each child is an individual and may meet developmental milestones a little earlier or later than other children his or her age. It is important for parents to remember that development is a process and NOT a race, and parents do not need to “rush” their child to the next milestone. It is also important for parents to remember that developmental milestones are guidelines and NOT deadlines. However, if you feel that your child has not met one or more milestones within the appropriate range of time, do not hesitate to ask a professional about your concerns. Your child’s doctor, a pediatric nurse, a child psychologist, or behavior specialist are all trained in child development. There are also many other child specialists who are trained in specific areas of development who can be consulted for help about your child’s development. These include speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, and audiologists.  If you are concerned that your child may not be meeting his or her developmental milestones, you should talk to your pediatrician or call 311 for more information on the Early Intervention Program in NYC, which is available to help children from birth through age 2 who may be experiencing developmental delays.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Vacationing with a Child with Autism

 
Whether by air, land, or sea, traveling can be especially stressful with a family member on the autism spectrum. Preparation is the key element to a happy and memorable vacation. The following are some tips for traveling and vacationing with a child with autism.
 
Be Prepared! Call ahead to the place you are staying and check for any special accommodations they make for children with special needs. If you are attending an amusement park, visiting guest services to inquire about a special needs pass for your child should be the first thing you do. It is also helpful to bring a physician’s note detailing your child’s disorder. Be sure to bring items your child may need, like headphones to drown out large crowd noise or special snacks to accommodate any specific diet needs.

Take Sensory Breaks. It may help your child with autism, and your family as a whole, to have built in mid-day breaks to wind down from the morning activities and to gear up for the night’s adventures. Your child may get overwhelmed spending too much time with crowds and loud noises regardless of the coping strategies you implement.

Include Every Member of the Family. Remember, this isn’t just your vacation, it belongs to everybody. Provide your family members with a variety of different types of destinations and activities to determine that there is something for everybody.

Cruising with Autism
. If your family is searching for adventure on the high seas, then look no further than Autism on the Seas. Since 2007, the organization has been dedicated to assisting the cruise industry in providing cruise vacations for individuals and families’ with special needs.

Autism in Flight.
A growing number of airlines are offering mock airplane simulations that allow for your child to experience what it’s like to visit the airport. Your child can experience every aspect of flight without ever leaving the ground. The TSA has a helpful list of specific information for passengers with special needs. The Smart Fish: Frequent Flyer app offers another way of introducing your child to the airport experience.

Provided by the National Autism Network www.NationalAutismNetwork.com

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

 
Educators and parents are more cognizant today about the various needs of their students and children. The lines between certain learning disabilities and conditions are not always easy to decipher, and this is especially true with a condition known as sensory processing disorder.
Sensory processing disorder, sometimes referred to as sensory integration dysfunction, involves the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and transforms them into appropriate motor functions and behavioral responses. When a child has SPD, his or her sensory signals are not organized into appropriate responses. This can present challenges when performing everyday tasks, says the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation. Clumsinesss with regard to motor skills, behavioral problems, difficulties in school and anxiety are just some of the conditions that may result from SPD if no treatment is sought.

A person with SPD may find clothing, physical contact or some sort of sensory input, like light or sound, to be uncomfortable, while another may underrespond to certain stimulation, such as not reacting quickly enough to pain. Others with SPD may not have adequate motor skills, leading them to consistently fall or trip. Some people with SPD overly seek out stimulation and sensation to a point where they are often misdiagnosed with ADHD.

Identifying and understanding SPD is essential, as such an understanding can mean the difference between getting the right treatment or being misdiagnosed. Some people with SPD are medicated for other issues, when SPD really is the cause of their problems.

SPD is most common in children, although it can occur in adults. The exact cause of the condition, and other neurodevelopmental disorders, have not been entirely identified. Doctors believe SPD is often inherited and SPD causes are ingrained in DNA. Prenatal and birth complications also have been implicated, and environmental factors may be involved. However, researchers believe SPD is the result of factors that are both genetic and environmental.

An accurate diagnosis of SPD means that most children will be treated with some form of occupational therapy. Listening therapy and other therapies may be combined. Therapy may take place in a sensory-rich location that is challenging but fun. Additional support may be needed in the classroom for school-aged children. Because kids with SPD have brains that are wired differently, they may require different approaches to learn their lessons. The disorder does not make them any less intelligent; it just means lessons need to be tailored to meet their needs.

The best course of action is to ask a doctor to conduct tests to determine if a child has SPD. Research shows that families who work together with educators, therapists and other family members have the highest levels of success with regard to making life easier for someone with sensory processing disorder. Furthermore, parents who suspect their child has SPD can refer to this checklist, which is available at www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-processing-disorder-checklist.html. A child may not exhibit all signs of SPD, but the list can be a good starting point for conversations with a doctor.