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Developmental Delays and Social Skills in Children

By Ayra Moore ; Updated June 13, 2017

Delays in child development can be physical, emotional, cognitive or social. They occur when a child fails to develop at the same basic rate as other children of the same age. Developmental delays of any kind have a negative effect on the acquisition of social skills. Often, this happens because the parents and children do not understand and, therefore, cannot adapt to atypical development. The earlier developmental delays are detected in your child, the easier it will be to aid him in learning necessary and age-appropriate social skills.

Risk Factors

Developmental delays are caused by a number of different situations and disabilities. Some children are born with abnormalities that can contribute to delays in development, such as Down syndrome and autism. Other factors that also put children at risk for delays that affect social skills are environmental or psychological. Some common examples include abuse, neglect and reactive-attachment disorder. Paying close attention to your child’s or student’s interaction with others helps determine the presence of developmental delays and helps ensure the child attains adequate social skills.

Implications

Children that do not reach developmental milestones when they should tend to feel out of place around their peers. In situations in which a developmental delay is physical or cognitive in nature, as opposed to social, a child’s social-skills acquisition is still negatively affected. Due to the stress that comes with difficulty in developing, it is more likely that a child will not take the time and effort necessary to make friends or form other social relationships. As a child gets older, this inability to function in social situations will make school and life, in general, increasingly difficult.

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Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Pervasive developmental disorders -- which include autism, Asperger’s syndrome, child disintegration disorder and Rett Syndrome -- are characterized by different degrees of social, communication and behavioral problems. Autistic children, for example, have communication challengers that range from never speaking to relatively normal language development. Children diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorders find it difficult to be in social situations because of an inability to control emotions, relate to others and develop conversational skills.

How to Help

Teachers and parents are the best equipped to help socialize children suffering from a developmental delay. A common way of doing so is to make sure the child is not isolated from others in her age group, either in nor outside of school. Children who associate with same-age peers from an early age will be more likely to find ways to fit in, even when one or more areas of development have been delayed. Once a developmental delay has been diagnosed and separated from other possible explanations, a treatment plan that includes speech-language therapy, behavior therapy or social-skills training is helpful.

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