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What, exactly, are developmental delays?


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It's just a delay in development of any of several skills, such as speech, vision, hearing, gross or fine motor skills, etc. That is, a child just doesn't meet various developmental milestones within an expected period of time. Since the "expected time" is an average, a lot of kids are going to develop somewhat slower than the average and a lot someone faster, so it's a matter of "how slow" and "how fast" as well.

 

If it's just developmental delay, the implication is that eventually the affected skills will develop to an normal status, just not within the expected time frame, so it's not necessarily a lifelong situation, with the understanding, however, that if there were a genetic underpinning to the delay, it might still be passed on to future generations. In that sense, at least, it could be viewed as lifelong.

 

When you get into "developmental disability" or "developmental disorder" it's another story though. These terms imply that something is preventing normal development of a skill, not just delaying it, so conditions with these descriptions are more likely to be lifelong. Even in those cases, it's possible that we just don't understand what's caused a particular "disorder" and that eventually a treatment will be found to accelerate development.

 

Rod Everson

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Saying that someone has a developmental delay implies that the delay in skills is not permanent and that with intervention the child can move into a more typical range of development. Many tests are developed at the preschool level and below to help determine this. In our state a child is considered to have a developmental delay if they are using a skill 25% later than the average age, or if the are 2 standard deviations below the mean (below average) on other tests. So if a 4 year old has been tested and skills are determined to be at a 3 year old level, that is a 25% delay and services could be received. Usually a 'social history' is taken to make certain that the delay is not due to something permanent like Down Syndrome or Autism (if already diagnosed) or cerebral palsy. Many things can cause delays at early ages - multiple ear infections or repetitive illness, prematurity, family instability, poor nutrition, allergies, lack of home enrichment.... Sometimes it isn't known what causes the delays though. Head Starts and other government preschools started with the goal of eliminating the environmental causes of developmental delays like poor enrichment and nutrition.

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So, in the case of MY sons who are ages 9 and almost 11, would their delays not be considered 'developmental delays" at this point?

 

Is this something you would seek during diagnosis? My sons are scheduling for a psychological eval with a neuropsychologist. This is the NP who dx their visual processing disorder. Because the referring doctor specified the referral as an 'academic problem' and I specified during the initial consult that the academic problem seemed related to reading, pretty much all that was tested during the 2-3 hours of testing each boy had were things related to the VP disorder.

 

I want to cover more bases this time, and am trying to do my homework as to what to ask for, what to mention, etc. :)

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So, in the case of MY sons who are ages 9 and almost 11, would their delays not be considered 'developmental delays" at this point?

 

Is this something you would seek during diagnosis? My sons are scheduling for a psychological eval with a neuropsychologist. This is the NP who dx their visual processing disorder. Because the referring doctor specified the referral as an 'academic problem' and I specified during the initial consult that the academic problem seemed related to reading, pretty much all that was tested during the 2-3 hours of testing each boy had were things related to the VP disorder.

 

I want to cover more bases this time, and am trying to do my homework as to what to ask for, what to mention, etc. :)

 

Whether issues would be considered developmental delays at those ages would depend on the underlying reasons for the delays.

 

What else would probably be taken into consideration is whether those issues had been addressed by therapies, along with the results of how the child responded to those therapies. For instance, if a 9-year-old is showing delays in the area of social skills but hasn't had any deliberate, formal social skills training, there's still a chance that they can respond positively to training. If the child is instead 17, then the chances for a positive response to social skills training isn't as high so then one would be more likely to be looking at a lifelong condition.

 

Yes, this is something that the neuropsych could dig into for you, although if you highly suspect it's stemming from a medical condition, you might want to involve an MD such as a developmental pediatrician.

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So, in the case of MY sons who are ages 9 and almost 11, would their delays not be considered 'developmental delays" at this point?

 

Is this something you would seek during diagnosis? My sons are scheduling for a psychological eval with a neuropsychologist. This is the NP who dx their visual processing disorder. Because the referring doctor specified the referral as an 'academic problem' and I specified during the initial consult that the academic problem seemed related to reading, pretty much all that was tested during the 2-3 hours of testing each boy had were things related to the VP disorder.

 

I want to cover more bases this time, and am trying to do my homework as to what to ask for, what to mention, etc. :)

Some of actually even depends on insurance. When we began seeking help for our son he was 7. The pediatrician gave a diagnosis of "developmental delay" but the insurance said he was too old to have a developmental issue and refused to pay for therapies. Their reasoning was that if it was developmental then it should have been diagnosed before the age of 6. When the pediatrician changed the diagnosis to "learning delays" that was found acceptable for some reason. From my professional experience, and now my personal experience, after kindergarten age the professionals want to look for/call delays 'learning disabilities' if there is no underlying reason known for the delays. However, if enough characteristics emerge for a more specific diagnosis, that can usually be pursued.

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