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Developmental parenting for positive learning outcomes

Although parents can feel pressure to take on many therapeutic interventions when raising a child with a disability or developmental delay, these services are just a part of a bigger picture.

For example, developmental parenting lays the foundation for young children’s school readiness and builds their social competence and mental health. And as the name suggests, it’s not a therapy.

“Parents are doing a lot of this already,” say Dr Lori Roggman and Dr Mark Innocenti, authors of Developmental Parenting: A Guide for Early Childhood Practitioners. It involves showing a child affection and love, responding to their communication, encouraging their efforts and interest by teaching and talking about the world they live in, and fostering movement and exploration.

These are all behaviours that parents engage in, say the doctors. Doing them regularly with children while they are young leads to better outcomes in the future. Positive outcomes can be even stronger for children with disabilities and delay.

Dr Roggman and Dr Innocenti made a presentation on the topic at the 5th Annual Family Conference. Their discussion included how parents, therapists and other professionals can work together at the family home (“home visits”) to find even more opportunities to support children through developmental parenting. The strategies include:

Building relationships

As all families are unique, consider what’s important and works for you and your child when planning with professionals.

Responding to strengths

Follow your child’s communications and interests, and work with your therapist to build on what you are already doing with your child.

Facilitating interaction

Interaction is the heart of a session: doing fun and useful activities with your child that can be repeated. Reflect with your therapist on which activities worked well and ways to make them even better.

Collaborating as partners

You know your child best. Focus on the goals you want for your child and the best activities to achieve them.

Your therapist is there to help you do more of what you’re already doing to support your child’s development, say Dr Roggman and Dr Innocenti. “The parent is behind the wheel, in the driver’s seat. The professional is shining the light on your path that leads to where you want to go—they are the navigator.”

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