B is for ‘Being Aware’ (and getting help early)

A few weeks ago, I introduced to you the BRAVE model – a model I developed for parents to help them to understand their child’s needs, and how they can support their child to live their best life (you can find that blog post here).   Over the next 5 weeks, I will be writing a blog post on each of the pillars of the model, exploring each part or letter of the model, and sharing with you the key lessons or strategies you can use to help you and your child.

Today’s post is focused on B: ‘Being Aware’

‘Being Aware’ is about identifying your child’s needs as early as possible, and getting help for their needs as early as possible.   By identifying your child’s needs and getting help early, you can give your child the best chance to:

  • Get started on treatment or intervention – the earlier your child gets help, the sooner your child can improve;
  • Harness their natural development and learning capacity – a child’s brain and body is highly adaptable and is primed for learning lots of new things;
  • Achieve their best developmental progress and the best outcomes possible, and;
  • Prevent or minimize any long-term issues that might impact on your child’s overall development and well-being.  

Here are the key lessons for parents to help them to Be Aware of their child’s needs, and to get help for their child as early as possible:

  • Parents know their children better than anyone else.  If you are concerned about your child’s development, trust your gut and seek help early.  

In my experience, parents often know their child is not developing as expected before they seek the help of a doctor or other health professional.  If you are concerned about your child’s development, I would encourage you to seek help for it as early as possible.  There are no ‘bad outcomes’ from seeking an opinion or getting help for your child early – you either find out that your child is developing ok or needs some minor help to help them to catch up with their peers; or you find out that your child does have a diagnosed condition, but the very positive silver lining about knowing this early is that you can get help from as early as possible to give your child the best chance of achieving their best.

  • A diagnosis is not a prognosis.  A prognosis is not set in stone. 

Please don’t fear your child receiving a diagnosis.  A diagnosis is simply a name of what is or what might be happening for your child.  A diagnosis is given to help define the underlying cause for your child’s developmental difficulties – but it does not define who your child is and what they can achieve.   Focus on doing the best you can for your child with what they have got, and embracing them for who they are.

  • Take your time when starting early intervention.

As much as you might want to race into helping your child to start improving, there are some things worth taking your time over.  Take your time to learn about and understand your child’s condition and needs, as well what you might expect for their future. Take your time finding therapists and services that suit your child and family.  Give your child and their therapists time to get to know each other, so your child can develop trust in their therapists and are happier to actively engage in therapy. And give your child time to learn and master their new skills before pushing for them to move onto the next skill (see more about this in the next point)

  • Focus on the quality of your child’s skills (and not just how quickly they are progressing)

Learning to move or learning new skills using suboptimal patterns or compensatory strategies can sometimes lead to difficulties down the track when trying to learn higher level or more complex or challenging skills.  This is because those higher-level skills are built upon the quality of the earlier skills developed. In addition, using suboptimal patterns or compensatory strategies can lead to longer-term complications, such as joint or muscle pain or loss of skills as your child grows.  So, make sure you focus equally as much on how WELL your child is achieving new skills, not just how QUICKLY.

  • Progression and plateaus are expected.

Sometimes children will rapidly learn new skills one after the other – this is a phase of developmental progression.  And sometimes children will appear to not learn any new skills for a period of weeks, or sometimes even months – this is a developmental plateau.  All children will go through developmental progressions and then developmental plateaus. The developmental plateaus are equally as important to your child’s development as the periods of developmental progress.  During the plateaus, your child is refining and mastering all the previous skills they have already learnt, providing them with a solid foundation that will allow them to, in time, learn the next skills.  

  • Be aware of what your child’s future might look like.  Continue to be aware throughout childhood of any possible changes or difficulties your child might encounter as they grow and get older, and seek help for them early.

While it might be impossible to know for sure what the future might hold for your child, it is important to have some awareness or hope of what their future might look like.  By anticipating what your child’s life might look like when they are a teenager or young adult, you can work towards preparing them to be as independent as possible when they reach that age.  In addition, as children’s bodies grow and their minds and bodies develop, secondary changes or difficulties can occur such as hip subluxation, joint contractures, or behavioural changes. Being aware needs to continue throughout childhood, so that you can identify any changes or new problems and seek help for these early to prevent long term complications and to help your child keep on the path to achieving their individual potential.

As you can see, getting help early has numerous benefits for your child, and can help them on their way to achieving their individual developmental best.  If you are concerned about your child’s development, please don’t hesitate to contact a health professional to have your child assessed.