Coping with developmental disorders

 Worried that your child isn't reaching all of his milestones on time? Addressing developmental delays early can help him get back on track. Identifying signs of potential developmental delays early can be key to reducing lifelong issues.

An MP (Modern Parent) in Modern Parenting HUB (our membership community) had a feeling that something wasn't right with her infant son, Simon. When she brought her face to his, his eyes rarely focused on hers. When she smiled at him, he seemed in a daze, never mirroring the upward curve of her lips or the joy in her eyes. Simon was this mother's first child, and she wasn't sure whether her gut level concerns – why does something just feel off? – were warranted.

With the help of her doctor and pediatrician, mom and Simon were evaluated by a team of early childhood experts, who found he was exhibiting a cognitive and social emotional delay. At 2.5, he was re-evaluated and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
These were hard truths to swallow. But identifying her son’s disability early meant he received treatment during a crucial stage of his development, improving his success at school and among peers. Approximately one out of every six children in the US is diagnosed with a developmental delay (the term used for cognitive, social, emotional or physical challenges prior to age 3) or developmental disability (the term used for such challenges from age 3 and onward), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And not all delays warrant a diagnosis. But left unaddressed, these delays may set a child up for increased challenges as they grow older.

Identifying A Problem

Discerning whether your child has a delay or is just taking a bit longer to reach a milestone can be tricky. But several red flags during your child's first year of life can be telling. You probably have grounds to be concerned if your infant isn't able to track objects with his eyes; hold her head up consistently when placed on her tummy; and isn't babbling cooing or beginning to say words by age 1. Not smiling by six months of age, resisting or reacting strongly to being soothed and not showing interest in others of or her surroundings are other signs that an infant may have developmental delay or be at risk for disability later in life.

By age 2, if your child is not pointing to things she wants, cannot stack blocks or struggling to form basic sentences like “I want more juice”, and follow simple instructions, (think: bring mommy the ball!) She could be experiencing a cognitive delay,. Equally indicated is if a child cannot engage in joint attention looking to where a caregiver is looking or looking to and from the caregiver and a toy while playing. Once three rolls around, difficulties in walking, running and feeding becomes reasons to worry,. So does avoiding eye contact, being uninterested in peers or performing stereotyped behaviours such as hand flapping, swaying, spinning or rocking at any age. Hypersensitivity to sound or touch and difficulty sucking, swallowing or breathing and extreme pickiness once solid foods become introduced, can also be signs of the delay or disability.

If you notice any of the signs above don't wait too long to contact your pediatrician,.. Your doctor can screen your child for delays or disabilities and refer you to an early intervention or special education program, in the States - per the individuals with disabilities education act (IDEA), must offer free evaluations and services for qualifying families. Each state and province in Canada has parent training and information centres, which provide parents with supports and education related to disabilities as well as guidance on obtaining services. Do an Internet search for local parent training and information Centres, to get started.

Getting help

Research shows that many evidence-based treatments can help address developmental disorders and delays. Speech therapy helps children produce articulate and better comprehend language – and can help with feeding issues, like chewing and swallowing. Physical and occupational therapy address gross and fine motor skills. And behaviour therapies help reinforce desired behaviours, (sharing, sitting still and making eye contact,) and reduce troubling ones, (biting or hitting). While most developmental disorders cannot be entirely resolved through treatment, addressing the early can reduce just how much of an impairment individuals may experience throughout their lives and improve their ability to function and be more independent at home, in school, at work and in social settings.

Ideally, children should start treatment before beginning school. Early intervention is especially important during the children's first five years of life, when their brains are rapidly developing new connections are at their most malleable.

The data shows that getting kids support by preschool age or sooner has an impact on their learning and outcomes later in life. Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder can especially gain from early intervention. Applied behaviour analysis is the most common treatment for ASD. It entails planning and assessment of goals ranging from basic communication skills, (asking for a desired item), to emotion regulation, (counting to 10 when angry instead of throwing or breaking objects.) ABA specialists reward desired behaviours and ignore undesired ones. Social – skills training and providing opportunities for children to engage with peers who don't have a diagnosis of autism also been shown to help children with autism learn to model appropriate social behaviour.

Where to get help

the following websites and organizations provide a wealth of knowledge and guidance for parents concerned about potential delays of disabilities.

– Autism speaks

offers comprehensive information about autism spectrum disorders in addition to advocacy and other support services.

– The centres for disease control and prevention

the developmental disabilities home page provides info about specific conditions, ongoing studies and resources for families.


– The Department of Education

boasts a comprehensive list of resources for families looking to learn more about developmental disabilities as well as their rights under the ID EA act.

-Disability rights education and defence fund

advocates on behalf of individuals with disabilities living in the US.

Echo FeatherstoneComment