My Child Struggles with Developmental Delay

developmental delay

Your child does well in school, but you feel like if she’d just sit still she could do that much better.  Or maybe there are some output problems – writing is hard work for your child.  Perhaps your super bright and fun little one doesn’t seem to be loving school the way you thought she would.

Emma, my eldest daughter, is a smart little miss.  She didn’t enjoy school like I did.  It broke my heart to see her struggle.  How do I help her cope with something I have zero experience with?

I was an excellent student.  I got A’s and was on the honour roll every year.  School was easy for me (until University, but that’s a story for another time.)  So imagine how I felt when Emma would fight going to school every day.  EVERY DAY!

We were lucky to have an excellent grade 2 teacher.  (Personally I feel this should have addressed in grade 1, but the teacher we had there was not the best – just my opinion.)  Emma’s grade 2 teacher knew right from the beginning that there was something holding her back.

Investigating the issues

Mom Anxiety

After a few sessions with the school Occupational Therapist it was suggested that Emma has a developmental delay in her fine motor skills.  This makes printing a very difficult process for her.  She grips her pencil incorrectly and way too hard.  She also takes a very long time to get her thoughts onto paper and presses much too firmly. 

We are lucky that we can afford to supplement the school board supplied Occupational Therapy with some private sessions at Make Way For Me.  The ladies there are great and they delve much deeper than “fine motor, or developmental delay.”  Emma was diagnosed (for lack of a better term) with a not-yet-integrated Moro Reflex.  You can read a little about this in this post.

IEP Creation (to support developmental delay, or any other learning issues)

Just after the last report cards came home we were finally provided with an IEP from the school.  An IEP is a report that documents where Emma is struggling and strategies to help her out at school.  This website outlines the process and how an IEP is created.

A lot goes into the creation of an IEP: one on one time with the resource teacher and the child; phone calls back and forth to the parents; and teacher input from class interactions.

developmental delay

I’m pretty happy with the document the school put together for us.  It looks like the recommendations they have suggested for Emma are the same as my private OT suggested as well.  It’s encouraging to see the school taking some suggestions from the report provided by the private therapy.

Emma struggles with reading and writing.  (I know, that sounds like everything, right?!)  She’s very smart and she actually masks her difficulty sounding out words by having above average reading comprehension.  I see the struggle with reading every day, but her compensation ability is really unbelievable.

And then there’s her terrible printing.  She still reverses numbers and her printing is very uneven and messy.  Her teacher this year has been scribing (writing her exact words down) for her and that takes a lot of pressure off.

The last report card had some improvement over last year.  I’m hopeful with her coping mechanisms in place (keep reading to see what helps her) her grades will at least stay the same now that the IEP document is in place.

If you have a child that struggles with distraction in class, or while doing homework, here are a few items that may help. 

(These are affiliate links which means if you make a purchase through my link I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you.  The money I make goes into creating this blog and providing you with more excellent content!)

Pencil Grip – to help correctly hold a pen or pencil for less fatigue while writing.

Fidgets – a means to keep a child’s hands (or feet) busy while their minds are trying to learn new things.

Headphones – to reduce auditory stimuli for people who are easily distracted by sounds.

Wiggle Cushion – for wiggley children who need to move in their chairs to increase concentration.

Music – CDs to do homework to in order to reduce other distracting noises.

Slanted Surface – use a binder to create a surface to help your child’s arm placement for printing.

What’s working for us (sometimes)

Emma has been using pencil grips for a while and her writing is very slowly improving.  I can read more of it now than I could a year ago.  She also has just started using a wiggle cushion in class.  I’m curious to see if it gives her a benefit.

The hardest part of all of these struggles is not knowing what is actually happening at the school.  It’s great to talk to the teachers and put these measures in place for her, but I can’t be sure the methods are being used every day.

I can say since we’ve started investigating this, and having Occupational Therapy sessions, Emma is more relaxed at school and at home.  Her grades have gone up since last year and I think she’s a happier girl.

If you think your child is struggling, talk to your teachers.  They are there to help.  I’m sure every school board has measures in place to assess, and assist, parents and children in having the best school life they can.

I feel like so much has changed since I was in elementary school.  If you had to go to the “resource room” you were labelled, and not in a good way.  It’s not like that anymore.  Schools have finally figured out that all kids learn differently and they are trying hard to accommodate everyone.  I was surprised to learn one of Emma’s classmates also visited Make Way For Me.  It’s so great to see kids getting the help they need to be successful!

If you have a child who struggles at school I’d love to hear your experiences, and what is working for you now.  Leave me a comment and share your story.  I’m sure others would take comfort in your words as well!


I have learned more over the years, dealing with these issues. If you’re interested in further reading, here are my related posts:

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  1. Hi Jess, it’s great that your daughters developmental delay has been picked up and she is getting the help she needs. I do love the fidget things, I could probably do with one of those myself, I am a terrible fidget and twitcher. I never knew there was such a thing as pencil grips, my son would have benefited from those when he was at school. I battled to find fat pens with rubber grips to help him write better.

    Thank you for linking up with the #MMBC.


    1. Sometimes I think everyone could use a fidget thing – your coworker who always clicks their pen; the customer drumming his hands on the counter, and everyone else in the world who just can’t stand still!
      Thanks for sharing Deb!

  2. This really resonated with me, my eldest has always battled from a concentration point of view in class. He simply must fidget and move around and it has been hard on him because he is always getting into trouble! We have started trying several different techniques with his new teacher and they are working so well! I’m glad you have found ways to help your daughter too. #stayclassymama

    1. I’m so happy to hear that you’ve found a teacher willing to try a few strategies. I think classrooms are changing and evolving with the new acceptance of different learning styles. I wish you and your children all the best with their education!

  3. My little man has developmental delay but in his speech, language and communication. We go to therapy and have lots of support at nursery and at home so very happy that there is such amazing support around us <3

    1. I am so happy when I hear people are getting the support that they need. Here it’s quite expensive for therapy so we’ve had to scale back, but I know the option is there if we need to schedule a few more sessions. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Oh wow it sounds like Make Your Way for Me is a great place and the pencil grip is working! It’s really interesting reading about this as I’d never heard of this before, your daughter sounds lovely and you are a wonderful mum! thanks so much for sharing with #StayClassyMama!

    1. Our therapy sessions have helped. We’ve since stopped going as we plain old can’t afford it. But we have learned a lot, and we have support through the school now to help Emma where she needs it. Thanks for the lovely comment!

  5. This is so similar to son. He has trouble gripping his pencil and his printing and writing were horrible. They have had him with an OT for the last 3 years and it’s made a huge difference. He still struggles sometimes, but it’s definitely gotten better. Now he’s gotten to the point that the OT is confident he doesn’t need to see her anymore after this year.

    1. It makes me so glad to hear that OT is helping your son, Sarah. I wish the government would realize they could help school children more by covering OT sessions for all kids, so they can develop the tools they need for more focus and concentration at school. Plus the confidence they gain is amazing! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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