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Cognitive & Social Functioning Delays: Adapting Instruction for Learners

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  1. 0:05 Developmental Milestones
  2. 1:09 Developmental Delay
  3. 2:26 Cognitive Delay
  4. 4:20 Social Delay
  5. 5:42 Teaching Delayed Students
  6. 6:48 Lesson Summary
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Taught by

Valerie Houghton, Ph.D.

Valerie holds a Ph.D. in Health Psychology.

When growing up, keeping pace with your classmates can be difficult, but for some it's much harder than others. In this lesson we will explore cognitive and social developmental milestones in terms of the developmental delays that affect school-age children.

Developmental Milestones

Child development is a process that involves children learning more complex skills as they get older. For example, a 3-month old child is not able to feed him or herself, but a 3-year old child is. There are five types of developmental skills used by pediatricians to determine if a child has reached his or her developmental milestones, events that measure whether a child is advanced, normal or delayed in development.

  1. Gross Motor: sitting, walking, running
  2. Fine Motor: holding silverware, getting dressed
  3. Language: speaking, understanding what others say
  4. Cognitive: thinking, problem-solving and learning
  5. Social: interacting with others, relationships, cooperating

Although each child is unique and will meet the developmental milestone at his or her own pace, there is a definitive block of time when most children will reach a milestone. For example, the gross motor milestone for children walking is between nine and 15 months. If a child is walking before nine months, they are considered to be developmentally advanced; if they walk within the nine to 15 month range, they are considered to be developmentally normal; and if they are not walking by the time they are 24 months old, they are considered to be developmentally delayed.

Developmental Delay

A developmental delay occurs when a child doesn't reach his or her developmental milestones at the expected time. Developmental delays can be caused by a variety of situations, such as being born with abnormalities, environmental factors and neglect. Some children are delayed in only one area of development, while others may be delayed in multiple areas. Typically, a child with a developmental delay is able to eventually catch up with his or her peers and thus should no longer be classified as delayed. This is much different than a child having a developmental disability.

Walking between ages 9-15 months is a gross motor milestone
Walking Developmental Milestone

A developmental delay and a developmental disability sound like the same thing, but they are not. They are often confused with each other because they are both measured by the same developmental milestones. A child with a developmental disability has a life-long disadvantage. He or she could also be developmentally delayed, but a child with a delay does not necessary have a disability. A child with a developmental delay is merely in a temporary situation until he or she is able catch up with peers. Examples of developmental disabilities include autism and cerebral palsy.

Now we will discuss cognitive and social developmental milestones in terms of the developmental delays that affect school-age children.

Cognitive Delay

Children between the ages of six and 12 years old typically experience rapid cognitive development. Cognitively, the child is learning how to solve problems and make reasonable decisions. For example, a third grader successfully memorizes his or her multiplication table and uses this new knowledge to complete math homework. With these new skills, the child develops a sense of pride in his or her accomplishments and abilities.

However, a child with a cognitive delay might not show this growing competence. Rather, these children demonstrate deficits in their intellectual abilities. Some of the common characteristics of students with cognitive delays include lack of reasoning skills, difficulty memorizing and a rate of learning that is below grade level. In addition, a child is said to have a cognitive delay and/or a learning disability when they are performing at least two grade levels below their peers. For example, a third grade class is learning their multiplication tables, but a student with a cognitive delay would be performing math on a first grade level.

Children with social delays have trouble managing emotions
Social Delay Example

A child with a learning disability might also show this type of cognitive delay. However, the difference between a delay and a disability is that a child with a cognitive delay will require short-term assistance to catch up with his or her classmates. A child with a disability will typically need long-term assistance and will have the disability throughout his or her life. For example, a third-grader who does not know his or her multiplication table is given a tutor and in a short period of time is able to learn them and thus catch up with peers. However, a child with a cognitive delay in math is different from a child who has the math learning disability known as dyscalculia. With assistance, a student with dyscalculia might be able to catch up with peers, but the condition will persist throughout his or her life.

Social Delay

It is normal for a student to show disruptive behavior and intentionally not pay attention when he or she does not want to do class work. But what happens when a child doesn't even seem to understand the classroom rules or has extreme difficulty in following them? This could be a sign of social delay.

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