Since a child’s youngest years are the most determinant, it is important to follow his or her development and living conditions with great attention. For this, nurses are on the front line to detect a problem as well as to support and advise the parents.
The first five years of a life are the most crucial in the emotional and psychological development of children. So it is essential that medical follow-up begins in early childhood. The earlier a developmental problem is identified, the faster it can be corrected.
In Quebec, 27% of children from 0 to 5 years old have a developmental vulnerability. With the right interventions, two-thirds of vulnerabilities can be prevented before entering school. Good follow-up can prevent a vulnerability from taking root and continuing to delay the child’s education.
Nurses are the health professionals most involved with those under five years old. As privileged witnesses of the pivotal moments of development, their role is crucial. Nurses Patricia Germain and Catherine Vandemeulebrooke devoted an article on the subject in May 2019 in the journal of the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec.
In this article, they describe how nurses work for the child’s development, and also support the parents. A child’s development has five aspects: physical health and well-being, social skills, emotional maturity, cognitive and language development, communication skills and general knowledge.
These indices allow nurses to assess whether or not a child will need adaptation to access pre-school education. While taking parents’ emotions into account, they can make them reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of their little one, as well as encourage them to adjust.
For example, they can encourage them to read, talk and sing. “There is a strong link between early reading activities and prevention of language and academic difficulties,” Catherine Vandemeulebrooke and Patricia Germain stress.
Lack of resources
In addition, nurses have an even more important role with parents who do not have a family doctor, as well as with the most disadvantaged. The rate of children with a developmental vulnerability reaches 33% in less affluent settings.
However, Catherine Vandemeulebrooke and Patricia Germain point out that there are factors that can complicate prevention and monitoring of developmental delays. These include lack of time, knowledge or training, in addition to difficulties in accessing resources.