The first thing you probably asked yourself when you read the title is ‘What is Global Development Delay (GDD)? I’ve never heard of it.’
The second thing you probably thought was ‘Oh my, that sounds bad.’ Or ‘Oh my, that sounds interesting.’
The third thing you probably did was decide to read on – especially if you have got this far!
Let’s talk about Jed. Born prematurely Jed didn’t start walking until he was almost 3 and didn’t talk until he was 6. Jed uses three or four word sentences when he speaks and is very shy. Jed is now 9 and struggles to keep up in class. Jed has regular temper tantrums and runs out of the room. Jed finds reading a real challenge and says he can’t spell – yet! Jed can be clumsy and uncoordinated.
At age 2 Jed wasn’t meeting his developmental milestones and was diagnosed with global developmental delay. Jed is highly anxious about the world he lives in. Like many children with GDD Jed struggles with his emotions and communication which in turn impacts on his behaviour.
Jed and his parents have had lots of support from doctors, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists. Jed is now getting help using NLP techniques to help him manage his emotions and improve how he communicates those to others. Jed doesn’t know (or care) that they are NLP techniques. To him they are fun and help him make sense of how he feels!
Let’s journey with Jed through a few of the NLP games that are helping him right now (there’s only time for a few here and now but there are heaps more!).
Strike a Pose!
This game is really simple and helps Jed and his parents use their bodies to show their feelings. We start with two piles of cards – one with words for different feelings and one with pictures of the same feelings. Jed and his parents start with a picture card and talk about what they see, how the people’s faces look and how their bodies are positioned. They all use their faces to copy the faces on the cards. We have a mirror and a camera so that they can see themselves and take photos (this is important later on for Jed).
Using his physical body Jed mimics the emotions and feels the way his body has to move to get that emotion. The photos help later on because Jed can look at himself in the pose, copy himself and remember what it felt like. Jed can have fun while he is learning to understand that our body language is connected to our emotions and vice versa.
As Jed regularly feels anxious, focusing on how Jed’s body ‘Does anxious’ will really help him to spot the danger signs for when he is about to reach overwhelm. This opens the door to work with Jed on strategies he can use to change his body, change his breathing and take control of his emotions. Getting Jed to recall a time when he was really calm or happy and getting him to practice going from anxious to happy by ‘Striking the pose’ makes managing emotions a fun thing to learn and helps Jed to see how quickly he can change his emotions by changing his thinking.
An extension for this is for Jed’s parents to take photos of Jed doing some of his favourite things and some of his least favourite things. By looking at the photos the family can talk in more detail about how Jed looks when he is naturally in different moods. Jed can copy the emotion words from the cards onto the photos and then share these with his teachers in school. The beauty of this is that Jed’s teachers can now recognise Jed’s moods more easily too.
Physical Anchors in the Classroom and at Home
Jed is highly anxious in school because he is uncertain about what is happening around him. Creating physical anchors in the classroom will help Jed to recognise that specific tasks take place in the same area every time. This certainty helps Jed to build more confidence in what to expect and lessens his anxiety about learning. Jed’s physical anchors include
1) having his own desk and chair. Taking it a stage further having the key words with pictures for the week just above his eye level helps Jed to see and learn the words using the visual cues as his eyes naturally move up to see the words. This helps embed them in his memory.
2) having his own small, round mat to sit on in the same place during circle time – the certainty of knowing where he is sitting helps him to feel safer,
3) the teacher standing in specific places in the classroom for the same activities helps Jed too. EG – Standing to the left of the board means having to listen while the teacher explains. Teacher standing by the door means getting ready to leave the classroom.
4) Jed’s safe place – creating a specific place for Jed to go to when he starts to feel overwhelmed helps him (and the rest of the class) to minimise disruption in the class. Jed’s safe place is a small quiet room next to his classroom and has a small sensory tent for him to sit in quietly to feel safe again. His support assistant stays in the room with Jed and only starts talking with him when she sees he is ready.
Improving Jed’s memory skills
Making remembering things helps to make learning more fun too. Do you remember that party trick of the tray with a cloth covering 20 items and having 1 minute to look at it to remember everything? Then the tray being covered again and having to list what you saw? My sister was really good at this game and it always puzzled me how she did it – I was convinced she cheated! She eventually shared her secret – stories!
Jed and his parents start with 5 things on the tray and try to see how many they can remember. To being with one parent helps Jed to make up a story about the things on the tray – as he gets better at the game Jed makes up the story on his own.
Let’s say there’s a pen, a cup, a key, a phone and a biscuit. The story might be about using the key to go into the house, going into the kitchen to make a drink in the cup, having a biscuit with the drink when the phone goes and you need a pen to write down the message.
The story may seem much longer than the simple list of 5 things yet to Jed the story will be what sticks in his mind. He can make pictures in his mind of the journey through the house and see it in his mind as a movie – it’s almost always easier to remember a story or movie than to remember a list of 5 things. Crank it up to having 10 things, 15 then 20 on the tray and you will see the benefit of having a story or movie of actions to remember! Try it and see for yourself! Better still challenge a friend once you’ve done it – they’ll be amazed!
Jed may need help to begin with yet allowing him to make up the story will help him develop his imagination, storytelling and build his memory muscles for better learning in other areas.
Every child with GDD is different and their life journey will be different. I hope you have enjoyed this short article about how these NLP games can help to make learning fun (and not seem like learning!) and work with everyone! They are only one piece of the jigsaw and for parents and teachers of children with GDD it is important to maintain high expectations of what they can achieve and allow the child to live up to them. Expect the unexpected and enter their map of the world – it might just surprise you! Jed’s future is bright because those around him understand what he needs to feel safe and are supporting each other in their approaches at home and at school in fun ways.
NB – Jed is a ficticious child and is not based on anyone specific.
Appendix about Global Development Delay
Here’s a short definition Global Development. There are developmental milestones in the important skills that we learn as babies and children. The skills include physical aspects such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling, standing, walking; verbal aspects such as babbling, mimicking the sounds adults and other children make, then saying proper words, then talking; life aspects such as motor skills, toilet training; social and emotional aspects such as understanding feelings and relationships with others.
Whilst there is no strict age we learn these skills they tend to be learnt in a predictable order at specific ages. Each child is different and will reach these milestones at different ages. A child who reaches two or more of these milestones at a much later age may be diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay (GDD).
GDD is most commonly related to one of the following 1)the child’s genes eg in Down Syndrome and Fragile X, 2)how the brain is structured and developed eg premature birth 3)thyroid issues 4)infections such as meningitis 5)alcohol and drug related issues during pregnancy. GDD is wide ranging and affects each child very differently so there is not a one size fits all solution.
By Soo Matthews