Many parents of premature babies wonder if their child might have a developmental delay due to their early arrival. Amy Patenaude, a licensed school psychologist, details what you can do if you suspect your child has a developmental delay.
written by Amy Patenaude, Psyched 2 Parent
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence rate of a child having a developmental delay is 1 in 6 children. While this ratio may seem high, it highlights that having a developmental delay is more common than one may think. These delays could come in the form of having Autism, ADHD, a delay in talking or walking, and/or a learning disability. As a parent, one of the best things that you can do for your child is reaching out to qualified professionals, such as your child’s pediatrician, a school psychologist, daycare provider, or an early intervention specialist to talk about your concerns and what you can to do as a parent to best help your child.
Developmental Delays: Birth to Two
A developmental delay occurs when it takes longer than normal for a child to reach a developmental milestone for children between the ages of birth to two. According to the Florida Department of Education, we are looking for any delays when it comes to a child’s cognitive abilities, communication abilities, motor skills, self-help skills, and social-emotional development. In addition to this, a child may experience a developmental delay due to an established condition, such as having Autism, Down’s Syndrome, and/or a severe attachment disorder. For more information on how this is outlined for birth to age two, you can get more information here.
If your child is between these ages and you suspect that your child is behind his or her peers, one of the first things that you can do is talk to your child’s pediatrician, a school psychologist, or an early interventionist. In the state of Florida, there is a program called Early Steps. This program is designed to support children and their families by providing early learning experiences that will help set children up to be successful when they start school or (much later) enter the workforce. If a child is found eligible for services, the family works with an Infant Toddler Developmental Specialist (ITDS) and develops an Individual Family Service Plan (ISFP). The ISFP is a road map for both the family and the ITDS to ensure that appropriate developmental goals are set and the goals are measured to ensure that progress is made. When it comes to developing the ISFP, parents are a member of the team and their input is greatly valued. As a parent, you know your child the best and can advocate for what you think your child needs. Once the plan is developed, the child and family will work with an ITDS. As your child and the family work the ITDS, progress is monitored to see whether or not your child is reaching the goals outlined in the ISFP. When children have met their goals and are meeting developmental milestones, they are able to exit out of Early Steps and no longer need the services.
Developmental Disability: Ages Three to Five
Sometimes, a child may need more help once they reach their third birthday or, as a parent, you may start to have concerns about your child reaching developmental milestones after his or her third birthday. There are still several services and supports that you can access through your local public school district. For children who have received services through Early Steps and continue to need services to reach his/her developmental milestones, these children are able to transfer from Early Steps to the public school system special education program. For children between the ages of three and five, they can be evaluated by the school districts’ preschool special education services team to determine whether or not they are eligible for services. Similar to a developmental delay, a developmental disability is when a child experiences a delay in one or more of the following five areas: self-care, cognitive ability, communication skills, social/emotional development, and/or physical development. Once a child has been found eligible for a developmental disability, the team develops an Individual Education Plan (IEP). This plan details the child’s abilities and the goals and objectives that the special education teachers and support staff (such as speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and/or school psychologists) will be working on with the child. Typically, an IEP is reviewed and updated annually; however, if there are any concerns from the parent and/or teacher, the IEP can be reviewed more frequently. Typically, special education teachers provide regular updates to the child’s parents about how the child is doing and what is being worked on in the classroom.
Parenting Advice Take Away:
- Having a developmental delay is common
- As a parent, you know your child the best and you are your child’s BEST advocate
- Early Steps provides services for children from birth to age two
- The public school district provides services for children between three and five years of age
Read more from Amy at Psyched2Parent.com and follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @psyched2parent.
Resources for Parents:
Florida Department of Education definitions of developmental delay:
Early Steps: Tampa Bay Area:
Psyched2Parent: Parenting Blog on Using Positive Parenting Practices:
Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System:
Hillsborough County Public Schools: Pre-K Exceptional Student Education: