Ed-tech, or educational technology, can have numerous benefits for children. It can enhance the learning experience, provide them with more opportunities, teach them real-world skills, and it can even help with developmental delays.
Developmental delays are essentially skills or functions that are not quite at the level of what is considered average for a child at their age. While having a child with a developmental delay can be scary for a parent, it doesn’t mean they have a disability or cannot overcome the delay.
No two children are the same, and just because one might be a little behind does not mean they are less than or that there is anything significant to be concerned about. It just means they might need a little extra help to catch up to the rest of their peers.
Luckily, with advances in technology, many ed-tech tools are available that can significantly improve the learning experience for children with delays, some of which can help them fully overcome their delays.
Common Developmental Delays in Children and the Ed-tech That Can Benefit Them
Developmental delays in young children can occur for any number of reasons, including premature birth, genetic conditions, disabilities, malnutrition, and more. And the type of delay can vary from one child to the next. Some children might only experience a delay in one area, while others might have delays in several areas.
The primary areas that a child can experience a developmental delay include:
If a child is diagnosed with a developmental delay, the earlier they get treatment, the better. The specific treatment for each delay can vary, depending on the individual circumstances. However, in addition to treatments recommended by the child’s physician, therapist, or specialist, you can also use ed-tech to further improve your child’s development.
Speech and Language Delays
Speech and language delays are the most common developmental delay experienced by young children. Children with delays in these areas likely won’t speak or communicate in the same way as other children their age, including verbal and nonverbal communication.
It’s also important to note that speech delays and language delays are not necessarily the same. If a child understands words and their meaning, and knows how to form sentences but simply is unable to speak well, they have a speech delay (but good language skills). In contrast, a child who can speak and form words but who doesn’t know how to put those words into sentences has a language delay (but good speaking skills).
To work on a speech or language delay, you can talk and sing more with your child, read to them daily, and reinforce speech and language throughout the day. In addition, STEM-focused education has been shown to significantly help children with language development, on top of its other benefits.
Numerous educational technologies can help with speech and language development. Parents, teachers, and speech-language pathologists can use things like iDevices, Smartboards, or dynamic Boardmaker activities. Even YouTube is a great resource for educational videos that can help with speech and language development.
Visual Developmental Delays
Visual delays are essentially problems with eyesight. All children start with blurry vision at a very young age, but as they grow, their eyesight should improve. If it doesn’t, it is a sign that they might be having a vision delay.
Vision problems can be genetic or they can develop on their own for various reasons. The most common causes of vision problems and delays in young children include refractive errors, infantile cataracts, amblyopia (lazy eye), retinopathy, and strabismus (cross-eyes).
Typical treatments for vision delays involve corrective surgeries, eye patches, glasses, or contact lenses. However, if medical treatments don’t work — or even if they do but the child still struggles — many ed-tech tools can help with vision impairments. Some examples include Audio Exam Player, Audible, and BrailleTouch.
Motor Skill Developmental Delays
Motor skills are related to a child's movement, such as crawling, walking, using utensils, holding a cup, or kicking and throwing a ball. When a child is first born, they do not have a lot of strength or control of their body, but these skills tend to develop as they grow. If they are behind in learning to crawl or walk or if they struggle with fine motor skills, they could have some kind of motor skill delay.
Causes of motor skill developmental delays can include:
- Premature birth
- Ataxia (muscle coordination defect)
- Cerebral palsy
- Cognitive delays
- Vision problems
- Myopathy (muscle disease)
- Spina bifida
Depending on the cause of the motor skill delay, treatments can vary greatly. This can include surgeries and medications, physical therapy, and movement assistance devices. There are also a lot of excellent educational tools and resources that can help children better develop their motor skills, such as Button Board, Special Words, Dexteria, OctoPlus, and Make a Scene: Farmyard.
Social and Emotional Delays
Children who are more reserved and shy might have trouble interacting with adults and other kids socially. But if their behaviors are extremely withdrawn, and they struggle to communicate and connect emotionally, it could be a sign of a social or emotional delay.
Delays in these areas can be caused by neurodivergence, cognitive delays, neglect or abuse, ineffective parenting, or attachment issues. Like many of the other types of delays, treatment for a social or emotional delay can also vary depending on the individual child and the cause of the delay.
No matter the root cause, ed-tech tools for social and emotional learning are readily available, especially as social and emotional conditions are so common amongst children, teenagers, and young adults today. Some popular tools and resources include LearnSafe, Robots4Autism, and Common Sense Education.
If you suspect your child has a developmental delay, it’s important to stay calm and continue giving your child the love and support they need. Some children just take a little longer to learn and develop skills, so they might not specifically have a delay but could just need a little extra help.
If you do think they have a delay, talk with your doctor. They can recommend options or refer you to a specialist. And remember, the internet is also full of helpful resources and tools. While specific medical treatments and therapies might be needed, ed-tech can also be a useful tool in helping your child overcome their developmental delay.