One must observe from the very onset the behaviour of children. Early signs of any developmental disorders can be picked up by observant parents. The way the baby uses language and physical movements to communicate could be the early signs of autism or any other mental or neurological disorder which can hamper a child’s social and cognitive development.
Dr Brunda Amruthraj, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, ZeitGeist, Centre for Personal and Organisational Development, Bengaluru says: “There are certain skills that are already fundamentally there when a child is born. Certain expectations also exist as soon as the child is born – these are called ‘milestones’. For instance, when the child reaches three months, you presume the cognitive development is on-mark, but if there is a delay in milestone, then there could be a possible delay in the child’s cognitive development.”
Any noticeable deficiency in the baby’s ability to hear or use his mouth properly, or inability to copy and mimic faces and sounds should be brought to the attention of the doctor immediately so that necessary therapy or treatment can be provided to help avoid developmental delay.”
Any noticeable deficiency in the baby’s ability to hear or use his mouth properly, or inability to copy and mimic faces and sounds should be brought to the attention of the doctor immediately so that necessary therapy or treatment can be provided to help avoid developmental delay.
Dr Amruthraj says: “If there is a slight delay in cognitive development, it is first seen when the child starts looking down in the first few days. In the first few days there is no visual fixation of the eyes, but after about a month or so, if the child starts looking down or doesn’t engage, then it could be the first indication of Sundown or the indication of Hydrocephalus.”
Sundown is an abnormality of the eye and is considered to be a typical sign of brain injury in infants. The baby looks down to the extent that the white part of the eye can be seen above the coloured part. Hydrocephalus is the accumulation of fluid in the brain.
She goes on to add, “when the cry is very feeble and not loud, it can also be an indicator for cognitive development being off-track. This can also be a cause of worry. For all of this tracking, we have the VSMS (Vineland Social Maturity Scale) which is a well-documented and well-researched scale, contains developmental patterns that a child may show and find out if there is any developmental delay.”
Some prominent warning signs of a slower-than-usual rate of development are:
- When a baby does not smile and laugh while looking at familiar faces
- Does not respond to familiar sounds; does not produce more than one consonant sound
- Does not point to things around him, which could interest him
- Does not use hand gestures or facial expressions to communicate
- Does not imitate actions or attempt to imitate speech or songs
- Does not recognize pictures of familiar objects or persons by pointing or verbally labelling
- Does not interact with others during play or engage in pretend play
Most of these signs may be observed in a baby’s behaviour only when he is six months old or so. It takes time for a baby to start developing social and cognitive skills and it is only at that stage that peculiarities or odd behaviour can be spotted.
Before six months, the baby’s actions and movements are severely limited and hence spotting anomalies in their cognitive development may be hard or rather impossible. But still, a close eye needs to be kept on your baby because sooner the problems are identified and brought to notice, higher the chances of remedying the disorder.