As early childhood educators, pedagogical coordinators and nominated supervisors, we have the privileged position to work and build bonds with many children, each and every year. We spend our days playing and learning alongside children, solely focusing on how their behaviour, language, movement, and mannerisms can inform us to provide richer and more responsive learning environments. Through experience, training within our qualifications and specialised professional development, we are often the first people in a child’s life to become aware of how they are developing in a holistic sense. We begin to notice if a child is having difficulty in an area, or if there is an unexpected behavioural change and we are able to quickly trial some new strategies hoping to offer the personalised support needed.
Educators observe the following areas very carefully:
- Physical development: This area focuses on how the children are able to move and interact with the environment. Educators are looking to see how comfortably the children crawl, stand, walk, sit, feed themselves, dress themselves, draw or build.
- Cognitive development: Educators will follow how a child’s speech is developing, as well as their ability to sequence events, follow instructions and remember routines.
- Behavioural development: When considering behavioural development, educators are evaluating whether a child is able to regulate their impulses or emotions at an age-appropriate level and how they present when they are feeling overwhelmed.
- Social and eotional development: This area focuses on the children’s awareness of their own emotional needs and the emotional needs of others. This area also encompasses a child’s own image of themselves, such as confidence and self-esteem.
Often, after trialling a strategy or two, or after intently watching over a period of weeks, we make the decision to have a discussion with parents to suggest sourcing some outside support. Through everyday conversations and our formative and summative reports, parents are kept up to date on their child’s general development across all areas. At times, however, educators might identify one or two particular areas in which a child is showing atypical development.
For some parents this can be confronting and can bring on a range of emotions to work through, however, there are some very important things to consider:
- Most of the concerns flagged are not life changing. Children develop at different rates and many children have a few hiccups along the way. Often the children need little more than a few sessions with an allied health professional and some support strategies to be in place.
- Educators are not allied health or medical specialists. Our focus is always on how we can best support children, and at times this means getting thoughts and opinions from others. Occupational therapists, psychologists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, play therapists as well as a large list of medical specialists, all offer such important insight and will be able to give parents more in-depth information.
- Early intervention can often stop a small hiccup from turning into a larger more ongoing concern. Children’s brains are most adaptable in early childhood, and they learn new skills far easier. This means correcting a speech delay, difficulties with emotional regulation or executive functioning skills, is much easier prior to five years of age, before it becomes a ‘habit’.
- All parents want the very best for their children. As difficult as it can be to think your child is having a hard time, it is important to reach out for help. Early childhood educators are not judging or suggesting anything is ‘wrong’. They are simply looking for the best ways to support each and every child. Sometimes, this support simply looks different from one child to the next.