“Developmental disabilities” is an umbrella term for many conditions that affect a child’s physical and intellectual development.
With most of these conditions, it's important to get treatment as early as possible. Many parents worry that their child, at some point or another, is not developing on par with other children, but how do you know when to worry?
The key is knowing what to look for, and then being proactive in talking to an expert to get the extra help your child might need. A child who has special needs requires a physician with an equally special understanding and sensitivity.
Dr. Catherine Schiano and Dr. Michelle Tomlinson-Phelan have expertise in treating children with a range of conditions. Our entire team at Central Jersey Family Physicians follows a philosophy of family-centered preventive care, delivered with compassion.
Here’s a breakdown of what developmental disabilities are, some signs to watch for, and what you can do to help.
What are developmental disabilities?
A developmental disability is a physical, behavioral, language-related, or learning impairment that typically first appears in early childhood. These conditions impact how a child lives in the world, and their effects are lifelong.
Approximately 18% of children ages 3-17 in the United States are living with a developmental disability — and so are their families. There is a very wide range of conditions that fall under this category, but some of the most well-known are:
- Down syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Vision impairment
- Hearing impairment
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
As family practitioners, Dr. Schiano and Dr. Tomlinson-Phelan welcome families of children with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Preventive care can help these children enjoy a high quality of life.
Have you wondered if your child is affected by a developmental disability?
You may have moments where you worry because your baby didn’t say “Mama” when your cousin’s baby did, or your toddler isn’t holding a crayon yet, but your neighbor’s child can.
Don’t worry just yet; there’s actually a great deal of flexibility in what constitutes “normal” development for a child. For example, although 90% of babies are walking by the time they’re about 14.5 months, some walk when they're 9 months, while others don’t walk until they’re 18 months.
Developmental disabilities: Signs to watch for
There are four main areas to monitor as your child develops:
- Gross motor skills, which control large movements (like walking)
- Fine motor skills, which include abilities like holding a pencil
- Language skills, which preside over speech acquisition
- Emotional/interactive development is also central to relationships and development
Here are some signs that might indicate a problem:
- Being unable to sit up at 9 months
- Having arm and leg stiffness
- Lacking control over arms and legs
- Being unable to say a few words by about 18 months, or sentences by age 3
- Falling behind on how many words are uttered at certain ages
- Rejecting physical affection
- Being unable to make eye contact with people
- Having coordination challenges
- Failing to respond to their name
These symptoms are emblematic of a mixture of issues that could indicate delayed motor skills, speech, and language abilities, as well as autism spectrum disorder, and sometimes these overlap.
Early intervention is critical
Even though there’s a lot of leeway in reaching developmental milestones and general overall development, it’s always best to have your child seen by a physician if you have even a single doubt, worry, or question.
Early intervention is key for kids with developmental disabilities. Services such as speech and physical therapy can change the trajectory of their learning, their social development, and how they live within their family and community.
If your child is diagnosed with a developmental disability, whether they’re 2 or 22, our team provides care that’s focused on prevention, tailored to your child’s health conditions and concerns, and rooted in compassion.
Don’t wait if you have questions about your child’s development
It can be a challenge to find the right care for children with developmental disabilities, especially primary care providers.
We offer the best care and interventions that not only help your child but your whole family. Call our office today at 732-257-1171 or send us a message via our website. We’re here to help.