The Importance of Catching Developmental Delays Early
Children with developmental delays of any kind (especially those due to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and other preventable birth injuries) require significant support in early childhood and throughout life. As soon as parents suspect developmental delays, they should consult with a pediatrician or specialist to determine the best plan of action. Between the ages of zero and three, children’s skills and cognition develop rapidly. The faster that families can develop a plan for intervention, the likelier it is that children will be able to increase their skills and abilities more fully.
Causes of Developmental Delays
There are many causes of developmental delays. Some of these are preventable; some are not. Non-preventable causes of developmental delays include Down’s syndrome and other genetic factors. Preventable causes of developmental delays generally fall under the category of birth injuries – injuries that babies sustained in the course of pregnancy, labor and delivery that are the direct result of physician error.
These preventable causes of developmental delays can include:
- Birth asphyxia/hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)
- Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL)
- Untreated maternal infections
- Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS)
- Cerebral palsy
- Delayed emergency C-section
- Many others
Possible Signs of Developmental Delays
When a child is developing, there are certain markers (or ‘milestones’) that indicate that a child is on-track for proper development. If a child isn’t developing certain skills at certain ages, it may be time to develop a family-centered intervention strategy.
Warning signs that a developmental delay may occur include:
During and After Labor and Delivery
- Low birth weight due to fetal growth restriction
- Fetal distress during labor and delivery
- Seizures shortly after birth
- Repetitive motions or bicycling behaviors of the limbs
- Low APGAR scores in the first few minutes after birth
Over the Course of Development
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty understanding or communicating speech
- Motor difficulties
- Difficulty with controlling the position of the head
- Difficulty walking, crawling, sitting or working their hands
- Difficulty with self-care
- Difficulty feeding, toileting or dressing
- Cognitive difficulties
- Lack of eye contact
- Difficulty connecting with others
- Crying and tantrums inappropriate for their age
How Parents Can Reach Out for Help with Developmental Disabilities
Intervention Programs (Ages 0-3)
Parents can request a free evaluation for Early Intervention programs if they suspect developmental delays. Many states have services available that are free and do not require parents to be U.S. citizens. These services are often sponsored by state and/or federal health departments and are provided as a public service. They are mandated by the IDEA Act of 2004.
Once you have confirmed that the child does have a developmental delay and seen the Early Intervention Services’ Service Coordinator, the next step is to develop a formal plan (called an Individualized Family Service Plan Meeting, or IFSP) to help your child’s development. This plan takes into account your child’s individual needs, your family circumstances and available services (such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and special education).
Intervention Programs (Ages 3+)
These plans last between the ages of zero and two. Before the child reaches three years of age, parents must then consult with experts about developing a transition plan for preschool, and eventually an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to help the student succeed in K-12. There are additional plans that parents will develop in conjunction with experts to help their child reach their maximum capacities.
Legal Investigation for Developmental Delays
It is always worth investigating the cause of your child’s developmental disabilities, especially if you suspect that the reason your child needs intervention services was due to mistakes that medical staff made during your pregnancy, your labor and delivery, or your child’s neonatal care. Intervention programs are useful tools to assist your child in gaining certain skills, but in many cases children with developmental delays may need lifelong care and assistance that limited state services cannot provide.
This is where legal recourse comes in. Birth injury lawyers who focus only on birth injury are experienced in untangling complex webs of medical records to uncover when medical malpractice has occurred. Litigation can help parents secure their child’s future. Settlements can help defray the costs of caring for a child with disabilities – disabilities caused by staff entrusted with that child’s medical care. It is a parent’s Constitutional right to seek fair and equitable support for treatment and care that a professional’s breach of standard medical practice has caused. Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free case evaluation by phone (888-419-2229), live chat (to your left), or email.
Additional Early Intervention Resources:
- Wrightslaw has a comprehensive listing of resources for special education and provides a detailed plain-language description of Part C of IDEA (which details what Early Intervention programs look like).
- ParentCenterHub provides a detailed overview of what the IFSP drafting and Early Intervention processes entails.
- For Michigan residents, EarlyOn is a state-sponsored program that provides Early Intervention services.