In Summary

LATE BLOOMERS. A a young child could be slower to develop physical, emotional, social and communication skills than is expected in children of that age. How do you handle such a child? ZUURAH KARUNGI talked to parents and experts.

Evelyn Kakyo’s child was very slow compared to her neighbour’s son who was two months younger.

“My neighbour’s son walked at eight months and my daughter did at one year and a half. I took her to so many hospitals and we also visited herbalists but they all insisted she was normal.”
I was told boys grow a little slower than girls and in my case it was the opposite, this left me shocked. Each milestone my neighbour’s child reached sent me panicking. What was wrong with my daughter?” Kakyo wondered.

Kakyo says she gave her daughter pumpkin seed powder, eggs, fish and the desired foods she believed were necessary for a child’s development but saw no progress.

Many parents could relate to such an experience. According to Dr Sabrina Kitaka, a pediatrician at Mulago hospital, slow development in children is explained in three ways.

Motor development
This is caused by muscle contractions at birth. A child’s brain may either get injured or gets an infection due to bad handling. Some children can have trouble with movements that involve many muscles, such as playing football, or with smaller movements [colouring]. Sometimes the problem is not with their strength, but with their coordination.

“This affects the child’s body movements making them take long to walk or do much more in their movements,” says Dr Kitaka.

Cognitive development
At this stage, a child could have slow growing genetics, a brain infection or a low syndrome which causes them to be generally weak.

“These children will require an immediate attention by the paediatrician to detect the cause and help them accordingly.”
“A child with cognitive development may walk at one-and-a-half years as a normal one walks at seven months,” she explains.

Social development
These children take long to associate with others publicly. They in most cases keep to themselves and people call them shy. To Dr Kitaka, this is slow development.

Food matters
In addition to this, the doctor believes malnutrition and poor feeding could deter a child’s growth.
“Once a child is not given a balanced diet in proper portions, this may affect the brain growth leading to slow development in everything,” she adds.

This is not the end as children can be helped. Do not wait for the behaviour to worsen.

What you can do
When I felt that my daughter had a speech problem, I called the paediatrician right away,” says Lawrence Ogong.

“The doctor tested his hearing and advised me to see a speech therapist to diagnose and treat the delays. The specialist paused questions to my daughter and said she wanted to find out what she understands, could say and express herself.”

From there he was advised to; talk with her throughout the day, name objects or sounds at home, or anywhere they went. Also, ask her questions and respond to her answers, reading to her every day.

“She has since improved,” Ogong says.
Kids usually get stronger and more coordinated as they grow up. Let the doctor know if your child isn’t meeting some of the milestones or seems to be losing any skills he has learnt.

How to help …
Dr Sabrina Kitaka says;
• Such children should be taken to the hospital and be monitored by a pediatrician until they stabilise.
• Parents should always feed their children on a balanced diet, especially food that boost growth and more importantly develop the brain.
• To Margaret Tumusiime, a counsellor, a child with social development disorder should be helped by reviewing the relationship between the child and parent because if isolated they cry for help and this could as well be psychological.
• Parents can help the children learn to interact with others by engaging them in activities such as sports where they get to interact with their peers.
• “You will also need to use a therapist in order to discover the real issues disturbing the child,” Tumusiime adds.