Children are known to have many developmental milestones. From birth, an infant will develop in many aspects, primarily cognitive, physical and emotional.
Most children in Malaysia have the privilege to be assessed on their health and physical development by nurses and doctors at government clinics and hospitals, and even at private clinics and hospitals that offer such services.
If there are problems with their health and physical development, they would then be referred to paediatricians and specialists.
However, how about the cognitive and psychological development of these children? Who can assess them? And who will determine them?
The best persons to screen and observe the behaviours of infants and toddlers are parents. Though infants and toddlers might not have yet experienced psychological problems such as depression and anxiety, however, some developmental disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be identified as early as four years old.
Some cognitive problems such as speech delay can also be identified early, and plans can be made to intervene. Early intervention is crucial for the well-being of children, not only for those with disabilities, but also for normal children, so as not to prevent any learning problems in the future and to ensure that they are developmentally on track.
As a mother, I think Malaysian parents have little knowledge of aspects they can observe to ensure their children’s cognitive development (especially) is on track.
I have some knowledge, because I used to study psychology in my undergraduate years, and am currently pursuing my Master’s in Developmental Psychology. I get my information from websites I can access, and most of these websites are from the United States.
How about mothers who do not have this access, who live in rural areas, or probably do not know the importance of observing and assessing their children’s milestones?
In my opinion, we do not make full use of available resources, such as Klinik Kesihatan, to advocate for this issue. Only after having three children did I realise that there are sections in the Rekod Kesihatan Bayi dan Kanak-Kanak (provided by the Klinik Kesihatan and used for check-ups until the child is two years old) that record infant milestones, such as their ability to perform specific actions such as smiling by the age of two months and reacting to sounds at five months.
I don’t think every family in Malaysia know that they can refer to the charts to screen the development of their children.
As I mentioned earlier, screening is essential, and to screen, all they have to do is observe their infants and toddlers. As parents, they are the closest people to their infants and toddlers.
Hence, parents play the most crucial role, as they are the ones who will provide the environment in which children will grow up in and be sensitive to (Sylvia et al., 2020).
But parents must know what types of behaviours and reactions are normal, and which divert from the norm, in order to judge if it should be a concern.
Parents are not supposed to self-diagnose. When they realise that certain developments are not on track, this is where parents should seek professional help, such as a developmental psychologist.
This is where intervention comes into the picture. However, a trained professional will not diagnose the problem and plan an intervention after just one meeting with the parents and child.
A series of careful and critical observations must be made to ensure the diagnosis is correct. After all, we want our children to develop healthily in every aspect.
And to ensure that, we as parents must play our role to obtain knowledge on the development of our children. We will then know what is delayed and what is on track, and by being involved, we can encourage the healthy growth of our children, as deprivation during the early years is linked to long-term negative consequences (Sylvia et al., 2020).
Sylvia, S., Warrinnier, N., Luo, R., Yue, A., Attanasio, O., Medina, A., & Rozelle, S. (2021). From quantity to quality: Delivering a home-based parenting intervention through China’s family planning cadres. The Economic Journal, 131(635), 1365-1400.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.