As an early learning and care provider, you know that all children develop a different rates, but did you know that 1 in 6 children will face a developmental delay?
It is important to act early if there are signs of a potential development delay because early treatment is extremely important. Unfortunately, most children with developmental delays are not identified early enough to benefit from early intervention, which can make a big difference in a child’s development and ability to learn new skills.
You are in a perfect position to see and track how all children in your care play, learn, speak, act and move alongside others of their age. If you use these CDC checklists to monitor the development of each child in your care, you can identify children who might need services and help their families get it for them as early as possible. You will also be able to reassure families when their children’s development is on track. However, it is never your role to make or suggest a diagnosis for any child.
Your role is to:
- Look for and note each child’s developmental milestones
- Share what you’ve seen with families
- Encourage families to talk to their child’s doctor if you or they have a concern
Talking with Families About Their Child’s Developmental
One of the best things you can do is talk with families regularly about their child’s development – not only at times of concern — and provide them with resources so they can track milestones at home. Because acting early can make such a difference, sharing milestones with families and pointing out areas of concern can also help them recognize potential developmental delays.
If you have specific concerns, clear open communication and your support can help to reassure families to take action in support of their children. When talking with families, choose the right time and place, where you can talk alone and the families have enough time to talk. Be prepared for strong emotions.
You should also be aware of your employer’s policies regarding conversations with families and be aware of your center’s referral procedures and community contacts, so that you are prepared with that information if you need to give it to families. Let your supervisor know you plan to have this conversation with a family and consider asking them to join you for the conversation.
Above all: Be caring, supportive, and respectful.
Here are additional steps to consider:
- Remember your active listening skills
- Pay attention to tone of voice and body language
- Be mindful of cultural differences
- Highlight the child’s strengths
- Be prepared for the conversation – fact-based notes from your observations and assessments can be helpful
- Encourage families to share concerns with their child’s doctor and seek referrals to additional services if required
- Follow up with the family to offer ongoing support and monitoring of the child’s progress
For More Information on How to Talk to Families About Developmental Delays
- Watch Me! Celebrating Milestones and Sharing Concerns is a free, online course where you will learn best practices for monitoring the development of children in your care and talking about it with their families.
- The CDC’s Guide to Talking to Parents about Developmental Concerns Provides tips to help you talk to families about their child’s development – not only at times of concern.
Resources to Use with Families
- Use the CDC’s milestone checklists in your classroom to track each child’s development progress and to guide your conversation and support your observations when raising concerns with families
- Encourage families to use CDC’s milestone checklists or free Milestone Tracker App to monitor their children’s development
- Help families to act on developmental concerns by encouraging them to talk with their child’s healthcare provider
LA County Early Intervention Resources
- Regional Centers: Regional Centers provide and coordinate services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities. Use this mapping tool to locate a Regional Center near you for information on an evaluation and services.
- Family Resource Centers: Early Start Family Resource Centers (ESFRCS) provide parent-to-parent support, outreach, information and referral services to families of children with disabilities.