How the NDIS Helps Children with Developmental Delays

Meet Sammy. Sammy is four turning five before Christmas. He lives in Brisbane. Like most boys his age he loves trains, trucks, dinosaurs, and has gotten heavily into the Christmas spirit. He simply cannot wait for Santa to arrive! He attends day care five days a week while his single mother works in family and domestic violence. Sammy is a generally well behaved and happy child.

Sadly, not everything is perfect in Sammy’s life. This is because he suffers from a term labelled Global Development Delay (GDD).

Global Development Delay

Global Developmental Delay is used much more as a term rather than a diagnosis. Essentially, the term is used when a child takes longer to reach certain developmental milestones. For example, Sammy is significantly delayed in regards to his speech and he has delays involving the ability to learn new things and his social interactions are behind other children his age.

Sadly, global development delay impacts approximately one to three children in every hundred. The positive news is that not all developmental delays are long-term with many children outgrowing their delays. Health professionals only use the term ‘developmental delay’ until they can diagnose the cause of the delay in the child. When they are able to do this, they are able to use a term that explains the child’s condition more accurately.

If you fear your child is showing signs of having developmental delays then you can speak to your GP, child and family health nurse or a paediatrician. They can work with you to look at an early diagnosis and assist you in providing your child the building blocks they require for a successful life.

How the NDIS Helps Sammy Catch Up

Fortunately, for Sammy, the NDIS has proven to be a blessing. It has afforded him the opportunity to get access to a variety of therapy types that many children were previously not afforded.

Currently, Sammy attends three different types of therapy. First and foremost are his weekly sessions with an occupational therapist followed by his speech pathologist and finally he attends music therapy.

Occupational Therapist

Sammy has been attending occupational therapy sessions for about two years now.

In these sessions Sammy performs the tasks that his OT has set up for him to do in that particular session. As Sammy is a structure-oriented child most of Sammy’s programming is set up in such a way as to encourage structure. Of course, there are times where structure flies out the window but these sessions are becoming more ‘wins’ than chaos.

An occupational therapist helps in the development of children’s base skills including fine motor skills, self-regulation, communication, socialising and more. They do this by developing a program for the needs of the specific child. They take into consideration the child’s strengths and weaknesses, the tasks that they can already do well, and what they need to focus on. In regards to the NDIS, they take the child’s goals very seriously and create much of the program of activities that will help the child accomplish them.

The earlier that a child is able to begin occupational therapy the more likely they are to find success. This is because it not only helps build the child’s skill sets but helps develop self-esteem and confidence. This results in a child who is more willing to try and do new things or retry things that they’ve failed at in the past.

Things that Sammy focuses on in occupational therapy includes:

  • Self-care routines – Sammy has learned how to dress himself this year thanks in part to the development of fine motor skills advanced in therapy
  • Playing games that require fine motor skills in the hands,
  • Writing and drawing – Although Sammy still cannot write letters he is developing as a young artist where it’s not always scribble that he writes. He is also learning how to better recognize lines and barriers within drawings and as a result is learning to stay within the lines
  • Throwing and catching – Sammy is learning to throw and catch balls as part of his routine. This is building up his coordination and fine motor skills
  • Reacting to sensory input – Sammy can be an anxious or nervous child. This is true for most children with developmental delays. However, he has learned that he is allowed to sit in a spinning chair and that he will get spun in a circle. This helps alleviate the feelings of anxiety and nervousness that he gets and makes him less stressed.

Speech Pathology

Sammy has been attending speech therapy (pathology) for as long as he has occupational therapy.

Speech refers to the way sounds are made using the voice, tongue, lips, teeth, and palate (roof of mouth).

Voice refers to the quality of sound produced by a person’s vocal cords. For example, loudness, pitch, hoarse, and/or strained quality of the voice.

Language can be separated into receptive and expressive abilities. Receptive refers to the ability to understand or comprehend language. Expressive refers to the ability to express ideas, thoughts, and feelings using language.

Sammy’s first real sign of GDD was his lack of verbal communication. When other kids were speaking in two-to-three-word sentences, Sammy was unable to consistently verbalize his first words.

Sammy’s speech journey began with naming single words (e.g. open, Mum, etc.). This has improved and developed over time and is now flourishing with Sammy being able to use short sentences.

Speech development can be assessed in many ways. However, in Sammy’s case, his speech was assessed through informal conversations, observation, and parent reporting.

A common speech therapy for Sammy will include participation in games or activities. During these games and activities Sammy is required to name specific objects, numbers and colours. This encourages Sammy to work on his speech, voice, and language.

Colour recognition is a large part of Sammy’s therapy because he has limited receptive language, retaining information is difficult. Therefore, learning to recognize colours and remembering them is an important stepping stone to increased receptive language.

Picture Exchange Communication System at Speech Therapy

When a child is not able to verbally express themselves, there are alternative approaches to consider. For example, a PECS system which is based on the child selecting a picture or story in which to express their wants and needs. Currently Sammy is at the beginning stages of this program and will have this incorporated with different signing motions, for example Auslan.


Music Therapy

The most recent therapy that Sammy has begun is music therapy. He attends music therapy once a week. Here he spends time with a talented musician who has combined music with a health degree to help children develop through music.

Sammy has always been a child who loves music. Whenever he gets in his mother’s car he is likely to belt out a tune. This is especially true if he has attended day care that day where by he’ll sing the songs that he has learned during the day or if he has watched a movie or television show that feature his favourite songs.

His favourite part of music therapy so far is learning the African drums. He is also learning other instruments including but not limited to the triangle and xylophone.

Music therapy for Sammy is designed to help develop his social skills. It also assists him with his emotional regulation. This is usually assessed by helping Sammy move between desirable and less desirable tasks. Sammy’s mother has seen an improvement in this since he began music therapy.

There is also an opportunity for music therapy to assist in reducing anxiety, improving their cognitive function, and enhancing their communication skills. Furthermore, children attending musical therapy are taught valuable skills regarding respect towards property (the musical instruments) while learning about music, dancing, and singing.

More Services Available

The services that Sammy uses to aid his development are just a select few of the many services available to him. For example, there are different forms of music and art therapies, dance therapy, psychology, hydrotherapy, sport and recreation, animal therapy, and many more.

If you have a child with a disability and want or need advice on what is available to help them, please give Bradannii a call on 0479 122 816. Our outstanding, highly qualified, team will help you find the right services for your child.

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