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Your Grandchild with a Developmental Disability


By Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L

Little Jamie just turned fifteen months and is not walking yet.  Taylor is two years old and not starting to talk.  Three year Cory old doesn’t help with putting on a shirt or jacket.  Madison, four years old, doesn’t play with peers.

It’s been fifty or so years ago since you were a young parent.  But if memory serves you correctly, little ones accomplish certain tasks by specific ages.  Perhaps your grandchild has a developmental delay or disability.

Hopefully, your grandchild is lucky enough to have a pediatrician who is observant and knowledgeable about the timeline of developmental milestones.   If not, then you, the caring grandparent can obtain information online, and do some research about what life tasks children of different ages are usually able to perform.  The Denver Developmental Screening tool is one of many guidelines to help you determine is your grandchildren is not on par with peers.  Then, gently give a nudge to your grandchild’s parent to get the ball rolling on receiving services to facilitate your grandchild’s development.

A developmental delay is not mental retardation!

No, your grandchild is not ‘retarded”.  Perhaps he or she had a congenital problem such as Down syndrome, or a problematic birth resulting in Cerebral Palsy.  But more likely, a subtle developmental lag or some type of learning disability such as dyslexia becomes evident as a child develops.  A large number of young children experience developmental delays in gross motor, fine motor, language, sensory, social, cognitive, or self-care skills that are easily manageable with the assistance and intervention, very often short term, of experienced professionals.

Publically-funded help is available for your grandchild with a developmental delay.

Whatever the age of your grandchild, help is on the way.  If your grandchild is under three years old, birth-to-three early intervention programs exist specifically to assist your grandchild with a suspected developmental lag.  For children three to school-aged, preschool special education programs exist in school to help your grandchild.  School special education programs are federally mandated and state funded programs are available for school-aged children in elementary, middle and high school settings.

There are a variety of experienced specialists trained to work with your grandchild with a developmental delay.  An occupational therapist (OT) has earned a master’s degree and is licensed in your state to help your grandchild reach appropriate developmental milestones.  The OT knows techniques to facilitate a young child visually following an object, rolling from side to side, picking up objects, creeping and crawling, and self-feeding, for example.  School children can be assisted with intervention from the OT to improve their gross and fine motor skills such as handwriting and throwing and catching a ball to assure greater success in school-related activities.

speech and language pathologist (SLP) is trained to facilitate normal development for your grandchild with a delay.  They use a variety of techniques to facilitate healthy language development involving communication, social interaction, and letter and word articulation and other skills that aid speaking and help with essential school skills such as reading.

A significant number of children receive services for some type of developmental delay during their early years.  Ask some of your grandparent friends; you may be surprised at how many of their little ones are receiving services, too.  Thankfully, services that didn’t exist when today’s grandparents were in school are now easily accessed for today’s children.

Author biography:  Debra Karplus is a licensed occupational therapist, teacher, and freelance writer for national magazines, baby boomer, and grandmother of two. She lives in a Midwestern college town.  She has been published in Grand Magazine in the past.  Learn more about her athttps://debrakarplus.blogspot.com


Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L
registered occupational therapist
Champaign, Illinois 61820

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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