How Do You Know If Your Child Has a Developmental Delay?

Parents Should Watch How Child Acts, Speaks and Plays

baby walking

As a first time parents, you probably do not know at what age a baby sits on their own, crawls or even walks. It may be hard to know if you are unfairly comparing your child to another who hit milestones early or if your concern is valid, and your child is showing signs of a developmental delay.

The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities urges parents to "Learn the Signs. Act Early." This ongoing campaign is dedicated to showing parents, relatives and child care providers how to look at ways a child acts, speaks and plays.

From birth to 5 years, a child should not only obtain milestones in weight in height, but in any of the above areas as well. A delay could be a sign of developmental problem. If that is the case, then the earlier it is recognized the more parents and providers can do to help a child.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in the United States, 17 percent of children have a developmental or behavioral disability. These disabilities can include autism, mental retardation, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as well as delays in language or other areas. However, the CDC indicates that less than half of children with problems are identified before starting school. During this time, the child could have received help for these problems and may even have entered kindergarten more ready to learn.

If you, as a parent, have concerns your child has a developmental delay, an appointment with the child's doctor is a good first step.

The doctor may conduct a developmental screening to see if a child is learning basic skills on an age-appropriate basis. A next step may be to see a specialist. Parents can also contact a local early intervention agency (for children under 3) or public school (for children 3 and older) for help. To find out who to speak to in your area, contact the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities by clicking on this link or by calling 1-800-695-0285.

Child care providers can also help with early detection and help by noting to parents any signs they see while a child is in their care. Often, providers can serve as a voice of experience since they typically have been first-hand involved with numerous children across developmental, physical and mental milestones through the year. Training of what to look for and how best to approach and offer advice to parents is also recommended.

While not all delays signify a true concern (it's important to remember that all children develop differently and that a milestone may be reached earlier or later by some kids and still be considered within normal ranges), early detection of developmental disabilities is a key to truly helping children reach their fullest potential.

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