Demystifying Developmental Disabilities

Posted on January 22, 2018 by kerri
January is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. What is a developmental disability? Well, it’s a catch-all term for many diagnoses that affect a child’s behaviours, movement, learning, language, or other types of development [1]. Organizations or researchers may define what classifies as a developmental disability differently, or define the time to onset in a different timespan—for instance, under age 18 vs. under age 22 [2, 3]. There may be some overlap between developmental and intellectual disabilities, but not all developmental disabilities affect “intelligence”, which is a defining criteria of an intellectual disability. As well, “developmental disability” includes physical and intellectual disabilities [4]. Sometimes, other non-developmental disabilities if not treated or diagnosed properly before age 5, can lead to a developmental disability. [1] Developmental disabilities are lifelong, and can range from mild to severe. A developmental disability is not a diagnosis in itself, but a cluster or classification term for a broad range of disabilities.
What areas are affected in a person with a developmental disability?
Typically, a developmental disability will affect 3 or more areas of a person’s development. These include:
  • Use of language in a way that enables communication with others
  • Ability to learn
  • Ability to move (mobility)
  • Ability to take care of oneself
  • Potential/ability to live independently
  • Capability to be financially/economically self reliant
What is the difference between a developmental disability and a developmental delay?
A developmental delay is a short-term period where development is impacted, with identifiable cause, but the delay is likely to be resolved or the prognosis is not known. If a developmental disability is not yet diagnosed or completely assessed, it will be identified as a developmental delay. [4]
Some causes of developmental delays are prematurity, long-term hospitalization or physical illness, or environmental factors, such as not enough opportunities for learning, neglect, or family/social stress. [4]
What are some examples of developmental disabilities?
This depends on who you talk to!
Some common examples are:
  • Spina bifida [1]
  • Cerebral palsy [12]
  • Autism [12]
  • Down Syndrome [1, 2]
  • Intellectual disability [12]
  • Brain injury [1]
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder [12
  • Fragile X Syndrome [2]
  • Hearing loss [2]
  • Vision impairment [2]
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Learning Disabilities [2]
Children with developmental disabilities can do well!
Sometimes, children with developmental disabilities just need some extra help. Some people who may work with those with developmental disabilities can include not just their doctor or pediatrician, but nurses, audiologists, occupational and physical therapists, psychologists, speech language pathologists, special educators, and often, a social worker to assist in coordinating care needs. All of these professionals will help to ensure children with developmental disabilities are on the right track and can become as capable and independent in their daily activities as possible.
If your child has a developmental disability, medical ID jewelry may be difficult to get them to wear, but is very important if they struggle with communication, thinking, or other medical problems such as seizure disorders. Our canvas sport band medical bracelets, velcro medical ID wristbands, or a shoe tag may be more suitable to your child, but if you find a bracelet or necklace they are excited about or is in their favourite colour, they are more likely to wear it! For stainless steel chain bracelets, a lobster clasp may prevent them from being able to remove the bracelet on their own. For children with developmental disabilities, kids medical ID jewelry can keep them safe, and provide a bit of security for parents, too.

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