How can you know if your child’s development is proceeding as it should? Is he still crawling and are you wondering when he might be taking first steps? Can she already verbalize her needs? Can he hold a spoon? What are the challenges your child is facing? Being able to identify these successes and challenges early can mean a great deal for your child.
Discovering areas of concern in a child’s development as early as possible helps ensure they reach their potential. Having a written tool for this screening is a great help. Every visit to a child’s health provider brings an opportunity for parents to share their observations of their child’s development. The visit may also trigger the need for more specialized screening, of vision and hearing, for example.
Parents can effectively gauge their children’s development through play activities and regular family routines. To assist with this there are easy, simple to use tools that enhance this process. One such tool is called the ‘Ages and Stages Questionnaire’ (ASQ) and is available through health practitioners in our region and is used by professionals and parents.
The ASQ provides a clear checklist of a child’s progress in each of five areas: communication, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, problem-solving, and personal/social development. Parents start by choosing the tool to match their child’s age group, and then follow simple instructions. As the parent observes their child doing each activity, they make a note as to whether the child is ready to do so. For example, can she stand on one foot? Mark ‘yes’ or ‘not yet’ on the form. Once completed, the parent can score the questionnaire, and any area under the ‘monitor’ category can then be discussed with your health practitioner.
The ASQ provides parents with a list of activities for each age-related questionnaire. The family might enjoy engaging together to support a child’s growth and development. Aimed at various stages of a child’s life from infant to school-aged, these activities encourage skill development and build confidence. Using a tool like the ASQ is especially useful over time; after a new activity has been tried, results can be compared to see if the intervention has made a difference. Forms are available at no charge from your local Public Health Unit, Child Development Centre and at Early Years Community events.
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Another valuable resource for child development are public health nurses who assess children at various times in their lives, with parent involvement, and also when immunization boosters are scheduled. At these times, referrals to other child specialists can be made, if needed, for additional and more intensive assessment and intervention (such as speech and language therapy).
Identifying areas of concern is one side of screening; intervention is the follow up. Among the many useful sources of information and support is the website
for the Infant and Child Development Association of BC . The Infant Development and Supported Child Care are two important programs in communities. They offer programs for parents, childcare providers and children either through referrals from doctors, nurses or other professionals. Parents are also welcome to contact them directly.
Screening for potential developmental challenges allows for early intervention and community connection. Look for upcoming screening opportunities at local parent tot drop-ins and upcoming early year’s health fairs. Contact your local public health unit for more information about health fair screening opportunities.
Written Dr. Paul Martiquet, Medical Health Officer for Rural Vancouver Coastal Health including Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.