Top Three Developmental Disabilities


As a parent, you’re constantly worrying if you’re doing a good job. It’s tough to take care of a newborn baby for mothers and fathers alike. But there are things you never wish for your child. No parent wants to hear their child shows signs of any developmental disabilities. It’s terrifying. It’s sad. It’s overwhelming. But it’s surprisingly common.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 children in the United States have some type of developmental disability. An alarming fact is that developmental disabilities have increased 17.1% within 10 years, with autism having the highest increase by far. It’s important for parents and pediatricians to work together to detect and treat any developmental delays to minimize the effect on the child.

What is a developmental disability and the four domains of child development?

A developmental disability is a condition due to an impairment of physical, learning, or behavior areas that begin before a child reaches the age of 18 (during the developing years).

There are four domains of developmental disabilities and each domain often influences the others.

1. Physical – The body’s ability to grow and develop; includes motor skills and senses.

2. Social – The capacity of each child to play and socialize with others.

3. Emotional – The child’s awareness of self, expression of feelings, self-worth, and value.

4. Cognitive – How children understand, solve problems, communicate, and reason.

Top three developmental disorders

There are a variety of developmental disabilities that can occur during the course of pregnancy and childhood.

In the United States, however, the three most common developmental disabilities include:

• Mental Retardation – Marked by substantial limitations in behavior, social, cognitive, and emotional skills (all four domains), mental retardation affects people differently. Some are very severe and require care for even the most basic of tasks, while others can care for themselves.

• Cerebral Palsy (CP) – A group of motor disorders that affect a child’s ability to move or maintain balance. Caused by early damage to brain tissue or abnormal brain growth, cerebral palsy is the most common movement disability during childhood. CP is usually detectable as baby displays delay in reaching certain physical milestones, such as rolling, sitting, or crawling.

• Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – There are several disorders associated with ASD and affect individuals in a very broad way. An estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. are affected by autism. Some need help doing daily tasks, while others require little. Autism is a group of developmental disorders that cause social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Infants are screened for autism as early as 18 months.

The following are classified as Autism spectrum disorders:

1. Pervasive development disorder – not otherwise specified

2. Asperger’s Syndrome

3. Rett Syndrome

4. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

Other developmental disabilities

1. Down Syndrome – A chromosomal abnormality that happens during pregnancy and has a characteristic physical presentation. This is a lifelong disability that causes mild to severe mental retardation but can be treated.

2. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) – Drinking alcohol during pregnancy has serious repercussions for a developing baby. The alcohol can pass from mother to baby through the blood stream which causes disabilities such as behavioral, learning, and mental problems.

3. Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD)/Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Lifelong disorders that are reliably diagnosed, ADD and ADHD are characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and spontaneity outside of the normal range for the age of the child.

4. Tourette Syndrome – A neurological disorder that typically emerges by the age of 18, Tourette Syndrome includes sporadic body movements and/or sounds (called tics) which are uncontrollable.

It’s important to note that this list is not inclusive and only serves to acquaint parents with the most common developmental disabilities. As your child’s parent or caretaker, you know her best. If you notice missed or delayed milestones or have concerns about how your child is developing, the best thing you can do is to talk with her pediatrician and get help. The earlier a child begins treatment for a developmental disability, the better equipped she is to live as productive and independent a life as possible.

What fears do you have about raising a child with a developmental disability? We’d love to hear your feedback!


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