How to Help Kids With Mild Cognitive Delay

“Your child has a mild cognitive delay.” These are words no parent wants to hear, but when you do, the first thing you want to know is how you can help your child. A cognitive delay means your child may develop thinking and learning skills more slowly than her peers. She may have trouble in school, and with self-help skills like dressing and feeding. A diagnosis of cognitive delay doesn’t mean your child will never learn to do these things, but she may need more direct teaching and more practice than typically developing children do.

Enlist the Help of Professionals

The first thing to do when you find out your child has a cognitive delay is to have him tested. IQ testing may not be an ideal measure, particularly in younger children, but it is the best way doctors have to determine the severity of a child’s delay. Your pediatrician can recommend a neurologist or other doctor who can perform the testing.

According to The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, children under age 3 who have special needs will receive services from an early intervention program 1. These programs, which are run by each state, provide free services to help children with special needs and their families. An early intervention team will evaluate your child to determine what services are indicated and will help you find those services. Once your child turns 3, the public school system is responsible for providing services to your child. The special education department in the school system will create an individualized education program, or IEP, for your child, which will spell out the services they will provide.

Ask any therapists who work with your child to suggest activities you can do at home to support what they are doing in therapy. With young children, most learning takes place during play. WebMD suggests you start with things your child likes to do and things he is good at. Look to your child to let you know his preferences, such as whether he enjoys noisy, active play or quiet, gentle activities. Most infants will want to play on the floor with soft toys, mobiles and mirrors. Toddlers will start to be interested in pretend play, which can be useful for teaching skills like dressing and toileting. Role playing and arts and crafts activities are favorites for 3- to 6-year-olds.