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Developmental Delays in Young Children (Ages 3-6 Years): A Unique Area of Specialty at the Vancouver Learning Centre

  Red Flags for Parents of Young Children with Developmental Delays

Parents should consider the following situations of concern in early childhood:

  • Delayed speech development
  • Delayed language development
  • Hearing difficulties (even when corrected)
  • Vision difficulties (even when corrected)
  • Fine motor difficulties
  • Delayed behavioural maturity
  • Disinterest in learning-based play
  • Disinterest in being read to

If any of the above delays occur in early childhood they can seriously affect a child’s performance in the first few grades of school. Such children are generally slow to learn, to read, to write, to spell and to calculate. This puts them at risk for failure in school in the later grades where even substantive learning assistance does not allow them to catch up to their peers.

Some causes of early developmental delays include:

  • Early hearing difficulties, chronic ear infections (sometimes corrected by tubes in the ears)
  • Vision difficulties (sometimes corrected by glasses)
  • Behavioural immaturity
  • Attention difficulties
  • Fine motor difficulties
  • Premature birth
  • Early brain-based disease due to, for example, tumours, childhood cancer, meningitis, very high fever, etc.
  • Pregnancy or birth complications
  • Early chemotherapy or radiation
  • Accident involving head injury

Even when these difficulties have been corrected the child’s brain still needs developmental opportunities to catch up. If these opportunities are not provided, these children may not be developmentally ready to learn to read (a sound symbol association task) or to write or spell (visual motor tasks) or to calculate at the same age or grade as their peers. Further, these physical difficulties can cause delays in language acquisition, which is the underpinning for all success in school.

The childhood years between 3 and 6 are prime learning years for all children. Identification of the problems and targeted intervention with play programs that are the underpinning of all academic learning as well as targeted school readiness skills in reading, language, math and general knowledge acquisition can ameliorate and even prevent serious difficulties as the child enters school.

A Standardized Testing Program. Expertise in early childhood testing (beginning at 3 years of age) is available at the Vancouver Learning Centre. Tests include the Stanford-Binet V (SB-V), Wechsler (WPSSI-IV), and the Peabody Picture vocabulary Test (PPVT-V). Dr. Judith Magrill has special expertise in testing young children.

Informal Testing and Program Development.

When delays are present and particularly when children are not speaking clearly and not providing at least 10-15 minutes of focused attention, standardized tests, even those specially designed for early childhood, may show what the children do NOT know. However, we need to find out what they DO know, and there are ways of doing this using informal criterion-referenced measures. These measures allow us to create an inventory of basic childhood learning skills, such as: knowing letters, numbers, colours and shapes; being able to match visual items; and being able to copy, etc. This inventory forms the platform on which a targeted intervention program can be built.

At the Vancouver Learning Centre, Dr. Geraldine Schwartz, Principal and Senior Psychologist, has had decades of experience with children of all ages, and she can develop individualized programs based on both standardized and informal assessment procedures. These interventions will better prepare children to enter the public school system. In addition, parents can receive instruction on play-based teaching and behaviour management so they become partners in developing the child’s increasing maturity and competence.

Next Steps

  • If you would like to have answers as to what can be done, you can book a complimentary interview with Vancouver Learning Centre Director Andrew Taylor by telephone at 604-738-2277 or by e-mail.
  • If after you are fully informed through the interview and by reading this website you are interested in proceeding, Andrew will provide you with an assessment date to begin the process.
  • If you have further concerns or questions you can speak to VLC principal and senior psychologist, Dr. Geraldine Schwartz, either by telephone or by booking a further personal complimentary interview.
  • The assessment will provide a clear statement of the student’s cognitive and educational strengths and weaknesses along with a detailed program that is offered as a proposal. The program is delivered by the Vancouver Learning Centre’s highly qualified teaching faculty, one-to-one.


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