In their growing years, an individual goes through many developmental stages. These stages not only involve physical and mental landmarks but also social and emotional growth as well as development. Although popcorn is prepared in the same pot, in the same heat, in the same oil, all the kernels do not pop at the same time. Similarly, the time and pace for these developmental stages might vary from child to child. Some children may reach a stage earlier than others but may not necessarily reach another stage at the similar pace, just like there are others who reach these stages later.
The range of normal is quite wide, however, it is helpful to be aware of certain red flags for potential developmental delays - a term used by medical professionals to refer to significant lags in one or more areas of physical, mental, or emotional growth. They can be temporary or permanent – persistent developmental delays are often referred to as developmental disabilities by doctors and can be signs of more serious conditions or developmental disorders that include autism, intellectual disability and hearing impairment.
The term “developmental delay” is often used interchangeably with developmental disabilities. This euphemistic term can be very misleading. After all, a train that’s delayed does finally arrive at the station - and delayed gratification isn’t the same thing as NO gratification (Logsdon, 2019).
Developmental disability is a diverse group of chronic conditions usually present at birth and negatively affect the trajectory of the individual’s development, causing difficulty in tasks requiring the use of language, mobility and learning.
There are many causes of developmental disabilities, including genetics; parental health and behaviours (such as smoking and drinking) during pregnancy; infections the mother might have during pregnancy or the baby might have very early in life; and the exposure of the mother or child to high levels of environmental toxins, such as lead.
Children in rural areas are more likely to have a developmental disability than those in urban areas, but they're less likely to access certain services that could help them, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Research also points towards male being more likely to be affected by developmental disorders as compared to female children, hinting a genetic disposition to these conditions. Most children are diagnosed in school-going age when the child appears to be lagging behind their peers, usually under the age of nine. Some parents suspect developmental disorders in their young children who fail to speak at the proper age or have very limited vocabulary compared to other children of the same age (Simms, Schum, 2011).
The major kinds of development include,
· Communication disorder affects an individual’s ability and capacity to communicate. Affected children can experience delays and impairments in other aspects of their lives. Includes mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, expressive language disorder, phonological disorder and stuttering.
· Learning disorders and disabilities affects the individual’s learning abilities and academic functions and is diagnosed by professionals. Most common is dyslexia, dyscalculia (problems with mathematics), dysgraphia (problems with writing). Most children experience difficulty in performing certain tasks alone or following instructions in the conventional teaching style.
· Autism Spectrum disorders is a group of neurodevelopmental disorders, people afflicted with this can display difficulties in interacting, comprehending or expressing themselves, and might have restrictive or repetitive behaviours.
· Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is also known as ADHD, it affects the patient’s executive functions, such as control over attention and inhibitions.
Usually, developmental disorders are first perceived if the child displays signs of communication disorders; they might face difficulty in understanding simple sentences and directions or fail to name simple objects. While they might be able to speak when they reach school-going age, they continue to exhibit symptoms like difficulty in comprehension and expression. Upon growing older, they exhibit difficulty in understanding and expressing more abstract ideas. Once again, these symptoms are quite observable in school, hindering the individual from progressing in certain arenas.
Since it affects the whole life span of an individual, it should be crucial for parents of children who are believed to be experiencing the symptoms listed above and should take them to a child psychiatrist or pediatrician. After making a diagnosis, treatment or management that might work best for a child’s case is decided to help children cope with the symptoms and become as self-reliant as much possible.
Simms MD, Schum RL. Language development and communication disorders. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 32.
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Washington D.C.: 2013.
Zablotsky B, Black LI, Maenner MJ, Schieve LA, Danielson ML, Bitsko RH, Blumberg SJ, Kogan MD, Boyle CA. Prevalence and Trends of Developmental Disabilities among Children in the US: 2009–2017. Pediatrics. 2019; 144(4):e20190811.
Developmental Disabilities: Delivery of Medical Care for Children and Adults. I. Leslie Rubin and Allen C. Crocker. Philadelphia, Pa, Lea & Febiger, 1989.
Logsdon, A. (2019, November 07). Common Developmental Disabilities in Children. Retrieved from here.