Tips on Talking with Parents about Developmental Delays

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Scott Center

 

For most parents, friends, child care provider and physicians, sharing concerns about a child's development can be a challenging and daunting task. However, it's important to talk about any developmental concerns. With caring support and open communication, parents can begin to take action.

There are some ways to make the conversation easier, such as:

  • Set the stage for a successful conversation - Choosing the right time and place for a conversation to share your concerns is very important. Try to speak in person at a time when there will be no interruptions.
  • Start with observations, questions or concerns - It’s important to assess where a parent stands in relation to understanding his/her child’s development before sharing your own concerns. The parent may already sense a problem and just not have the words to articulate it. Then share your own observations. By doing so, you will open an exchange and may even validate a parent’s hidden concerns and fears.
  • Be supportive, never judgmental - An empathetic approach goes much further in establishing trust and understanding than a judgmental or emotionally-closed or -charged one. Your tone and manner should be open and available.
  • Focus on milestones and the need to "rule out" anything serious - Give the parent something positive to read (see our developmental checklist of hallmark milestones and red flags).
  • Refer parents to professional resources - Seeing developmental disorders described in writing, whether through literature or on the web, allows a parent to make the match with his/her own child’s behaviors and needs. It provides an objective description of common features and allows the parent to come into recognizing developmental concerns at their own pace.
  • Emphasize the importance of early intervention - By not receiving timely interventions for concerns around language, behavior, and social connectedness, the problems will not go away, but will worsen over time. And what’s most hopeful is that early intervention works, improving life in the long and short term for both the child and the family. So life will get better once interventions are underway.


If parents disagree with you about their child’s behavior or abilities, try:

Sometimes children behave differently at home than they do at school. I’m only able to share with you what I’ve seen in the classroom. How does Taylor act when he’s around
other children in the neighborhood?

If a parent gets angry or upset, try:

I understand that you are upset. Like you, I want what’s best for Taylor. That’s why it’s so important for me to share with you what I am seeing. If he does need some extra help, I want him to have the opportunity to get it as soon as possible. Do you want to discuss your questions and concerns now, or would you rather think about this a little more and meet again (in a couple of days, next week, etc.)? (If the parent hasn’t already been given a mile stone checklist, give one and suggest that he or she fill it out and bring it back.)

If a parent reports that the doctor said to wait and see, try:

While it’s true that every child develops at his or her own pace, there are certain milestones we typically see from most children by Taylor’s age. If you are concerned, you can reach out to early intervention directly to see if Taylor qualifies for help through free or low-cost ser vices. You don’t need a doctor’s referral. Acting early may make a real difference for Taylor, so it’s better to find out for sure. If his development is delayed enough to qualify for help, you can get those services started right away and then follow-up with the doctor.


If a parent is encouraged to see a pediatrician or health care provider with developmental concerns about their  child, there will be one of two outcomes, but each will have its positive results. If  concerns are ruled out, parents can rest easy. If there are indeed confirmed issues,  seeking help through evaluation and referral will eventually get the family back on a healthy developmental path.

No harm can be done by checking out concerns. Things can only get better. This is a positive message that family and friends can share with parents to encourage  them to seek help.


Much of this information was provided by the experts at:  http://www.firstsigns.org


Get a free download tip sheet at:
https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/CDC_LTSAE_TipsForTalkingWithParents_AppBadge-508.pdf


For more tips and info, read the full blog post at: www.thescottcenter.org/blog