What are developmental delays?

Learn more about developmental delays and what you should do if you suspect your child has one.

Most children meet developmental milestones within a specific range that is typical for their age. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Most children meet developmental milestones within a specific range that is typical for their age. Photo credit: Pixabay.

All children are unique and develop at different rates. However, most children meet developmental milestones within a specific range that is typical for their age. For example, many toddlers begin walking around 1 year, but some children may begin walking at 10 months while others may not start until 16 months. When children do not meet these developmental milestones within the predictable range, it is strongly recommended that they receive an assessment to determine if there is a delay so that intervention(s) can begin, if necessary.

 Some children may be diagnosed at birth or shortly thereafter with a developmental disability. Others may demonstrate slow or atypical development in their early years in one or more areas of development. Their delay may be temporary, long term or life-long. The degree of the delay(s) could be very mild and barely noticeable to more severe and appearing quite evidently. Patterns of development can be complex and can be challenging to identify a specific disorder accurately at an early age.

Most often a concern is identified in children under the age of 3 in the area of speech and language development. If you suspect that your child may have a developmental delay in any area, you should contact your child’s physician. As a parent/caregiver you are the “expert” when it comes to your child – you know her best and may need to advocate for her if your concerns are disregarded. It can be very helpful if you write down your concerns, questions and observations. The professionals working with children will need your input and will ask you many questions; if you have it written down, information will less likely be omitted and will be more accurate.

Federal money assists states in operating a comprehensive statewide program of services for children up to age 3 who have an eligible diagnosed condition or developmental delay. In Michigan this system is Early-On. Early intervention can be critical to encourage growth and development and get children back on track. It is possible that without assistance, delays could become more significant and last longer. With child specific intervention strategies, many children will progress and catch up to their peers.

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