International Adoption Health Program

Developmental Delays

"Development" encompasses several developmental skill areas including: gross motor skills, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, speech language skills, feeding skills, adaptive play skills, and self care skills.

Children living in institutions spend very little time being stimulated both by caregivers and with experiences with toys. They have little opportunity as infants to be held, rocked, and moved around so they don't learn how to move well. They have little opportunity to play with toys, so they don't learn what toys do or how to play with them. If they have toys, they generally have to share those toys and are not given loving structure to learn how to share and engage with other children when playing. They are generally not spoken to often, and do not get early social and verbal play opportunities with adults, which helps children to develop communication skills.

This lack of experiences can cause mild to significant delays in motor skills. Many times, with therapy services supporting the families and children, these skills can develop. Typically upon adoption, children at first advance more quickly in gross motor skills. Next are visual motor skills, followed by feeding and then communication skills.

In foster care living, children may have more experiences and experience less developmental delays. However, these children also deal with transition from care givers they may have become attached to. In this instance, separation and transition challenges can impact the skills a child will show you or will learn early into adoption. As well, cultures differ in child raising strategies and these differences may be reflected in the developmental skills of the child. For instance, a child from Guatamala may have very good head control from being held in a papoose all day, however, they have delayed gross motor skills because they have little opportunity to be on the floor, learning to sit and move.

Developmental skills

Gross motor skills include rolling, sitting, crawling, walking, running, and jumping. Fine motor skills include holding toys, manipulating toys in hands, holding a pencil, operating scissors, etc. Visual motor skills are the "what" kids do with items when they are in their hands, such as: color, cut, put together llegos, copy from a board in school, type, etc. Speech language skills represent communication skills such as: early social smiling, recognizing name, babbling, talking, and awareness of non-verbal expressions such as emotions. Feeding skills include: drinking from a bottle or cup, eating a wide variety of age appropriate foods with good chewing and swallowing, and simple meal prep (such as a pre-schooler helping spread jelly on bread.) Adaptive play skills include: learning how to play with toys, learning and using imaginative play, and learning how to play with others. Self care skills include: dressing, feeding, bathing, and toileting.

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