Developmental disabilities include conditions with mental or physical disabilities. These disabilities begin early in life (by definition before age 22 years) and last throughout the person's lifetime. Some developmental disabilities are only physical such as blindness. Others may include learning, behavioral or language difficulties. Some are a combination of physical and intellectual disabilities. Developmental disabilities impact day-to-day functioning, though to widely varying degrees. Many times children with developmental disabilities will be slower to reach certain milestones. Children reach milestones such as crawling, walking and talking at different paces, but there are milestone guides to help determine if a child is on the right track.
Many developmental disabilities begin even before birth, some may occur afterwards as a result of injury, infection or other trauma. Most are thought to be caused by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. Often times, the reason for the developmental disability is unknown. Risk factors during pregnancy include tobacco and alcohol use, toxin, chemical or drug exposures, or infections. Untreated jaundice after birth, low birth weight and premature birth may also play a role. Some examples of developmental disabilities include fetal alcohol syndrome (due to maternal alcohol use during pregnancy) and genetic conditions such as Fragile X and Down syndrome.
It is estimated that 1 in 6 children in the United States has a form of developmental disability. Early diagnosis and intervention can have a significant impact on a child's chance to learn new skills. If a child is suspected to have a delay, a developmental screening assessment should be done. Don't hesitate to have you child screened if you feel there could be a delay. There are many options for help including school, work and social support. Support groups are a good source of information, networking and support.