The early years of a child’s development are often the most exciting for a parent. Children pick up knowledge and skills at a rapid pace. They also begin to make sense of the world around them in interesting ways.
Parents are the first witnesses to a child’s little victories. They are also usually the first to notice irregularities that may point to developmental delays, like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Learn about how to gauge your child’s early learning, and how to assist in their developmental progress during early childhood.
What is Early Childhood Development?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention divides early childhood developmental milestones into four parts:
- Social and Emotional
- Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
- Movement/Physical Development
These are markers to see a child’s growth in the first stage of life. Development in all four categories is usually observable by the time a child is two months old. Take regular visits to your doctor to track your child’s progress and become familiar with the next stages.
It is important to note that early childhood development is not a linear process in which you can simply check off your child’s milestones from a list. Every child grows at a unique pace. This means that your child’s growth will not look the same as another child’s.
Recognizing Autism in Your Child
Developmental milestones are helpful in determining the progress of your child, but they also help in noticing where they may be lagging behind. ASD often exhibits signs from early childhood. Common indicators for children include:
- Doesn’t react to loud noises
- Doesn’t smile or laugh at you
- Doesn’t cry
- Doesn’t respond when their name is called
- Doesn’t make eye contact
- Suddenly stops using words they already learned
If you notice this pattern of behavior in your child, do not hesitate to contact a health professional for an assessment and diagnosis. Detecting these early on can help them receive additional support that may be needed as they grow up.
Some symptoms, however, do not become evident until the child is two years of age or older. Continue to discuss with your pediatrician to open up any questions or concerns about your child’s development.
Activities to Help Children with ASD
Therapy is most helpful in addressing the developmental delays your child may be experiencing. But as parents, you can organize projects for your child that can supplement their learning.
ASD affects how a child processes information. Getting them involved in activities will improve attention span, teach them ways to keep calm, and stimulate learning while doing something they enjoy.
Sensory activities focus on the five senses: sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch. This is essential for all children. These activities are all the more important for differently-abled children, as they may have particular difficulty in processing sensory information.
Games that require the use of the senses can be improvised using things that can be found at home. House items of different colors and textures, such as grains of rice and fleece sweaters, help them associate details with their own sense of sight and touch.
Fruits and other foods also assist in differentiating smells and tastes. Pots and pans and other surfaces at home can also familiarize sounds to them.
These games will help you understand your child’s preferences and what methods help them learn best.
Socialization begins in the family and extends to their interactions with other children. Children with special needs may sometimes find it difficult to reach out or relate to others. Behavioral therapy is a helpful start to let them learn techniques and skills for use in social situations.
Because experience remains the best teacher, take a leap and enroll your child into a child care or daycare center where they will be able to meet other children under the guidance and supervision of a teacher. Inform teachers of your child’s special needs and trust that their goal is also to help your child’s development.
Music therapy engages both hemispheres of the brain. Therapists use music to address cognitive issues while encouraging relationship-building through group activities.
Children with autism may have a harder time processing social cues and connotations that are intimately tied to verbal communication. Music simplifies this by decreasing the social expectations that come with learning a language.
Teach your child simple songs to help them pick up new vocabulary. Doing this in a group setting also brings them into a comfortable and enjoyable space to relate with other kids.
Continue engaging your child in such activities and celebrate with them as they learn a wealth of information through these exciting experiences.