Defining Developmental Disabilities: What a Diagnosis Really Means for Your Child

Has your child been newly diagnosed with a disability? Learn what it means and how treatment can change their life.

When you take your child to the pediatrician for check-ups, your doctor will perform some basic developmental screenings by observing them and asking you questions about your child’s behaviors and abilities. Spotting a developmental delay during the first three years of life allows for early therapeutic care and gives your child the chance to gain skills by working with a team of specialty care providers.

In Little Rock and throughout the state of Arkansas, the First Connections program offered through the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) provides services to children exhibiting an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD). After receiving a diagnosis and qualifying for these services, your child can receive respite care, assistive devices, habilitative therapy, and anything else covered under treatment for their developmental disability.

Types of Developmental Disabilities

There are many different types of developmental delays and a variety of conditions that lead to delays and related issues. Identifying the specific cause for your child’s delay can help you get them the help they need to reach their full potential. Most types of developmental disabilities are exhibited by delays in the following:

  • Physical development, including fine and gross motor skills
  • Cognitive, or intellectual development
  • Speech, language, and communication
  • Emotional and social development
  • Age appropriate self-care skills

Identifying the source of the delay allows your team to tailor a treatment plan to meet your child’s needs. For example, a child diagnosed with autism will need very different care than a child with Down syndrome, even though they may both struggle with language and communication.

According to the CDC, some common causes of developmental delays include the follow diagnoses:

  • Down Syndrome – This genetic condition is diagnosed during gestation or at birth and is caused by an extra chromosome. Children with Down syndrome may have intellectual disabilities and struggle with speech, self care, and both fine and gross motor skills.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder – This condition can appear in early childhood or infancy and can cause varying degrees of difficulty with socialization, receptive and expressive language, and communication.
  • Cerebral Palsy – This movement disorder appears during infancy or early childhood, causing brain damage and the inability to control physical movement.
  • Muscular Dystrophy – This condition, which can appear in early or late childhood, causes muscles to deteriorate or degenerate and affect a child’s fine and gross motor skills.
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum– Many intellectual, physical, and communication delays in children are the result of a mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) – This condition actually genetically inherits an intellectual disability. FXS can delays in social development and communication skills.

Importance of Early Screening

Early screenings allow you and your physician to spot potential developmental delays as early as possible and get your child the help they need to thrive. For some conditions, early treatment is key to a successful outcome and can even sometimes reverse a diagnosis.

Screening can be as simple as learning more about the typical development you should expect at each age and alerting your health care provider to any potential disparities. Screening tools like the M-CHAT can quickly identify children who may need further screening for autism and other types of developmental disabilities.

Obtaining a Diagnosis

Receiving a diagnosis is the first step to finding the right type of treatment for your child’s developmental disability in Little Rock. For example, in Arkansas, health care insurers are required to cover ABA therapy for children diagnosed with autism. Applied Behavioral Therapy, or ABA therapy, is the gold standard for autism care and only about half of states require insurers to cover this therapy. Additionally, a diagnosis is required to be treated after the age of 3 in most states. Without that diagnosis, your child might not be able to access all of the care they need through means you can afford.

Certain Medicaid options that cover condition-specific treatment (and that do not have income requirements) may also help your child receive care at no cost to you, provided you have a diagnosis in hand. In any case, with the right treatment plan, your child has a bright future ahead of them.

If you suspect your child may have a developmental delay in one or more areas, contact your physician to set up a screening and discuss your concerns. For more information about treatment for a developmental disability in Little Rock, contact Integrity, Inc. at 501-406-0442.

Autism Tool Kit CTA

Related posts