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Developmental Delay

It is important for educators, paraeducators, and parents to be able to identify and understand the different types of developmental delays that can occur in children so that early intervention services can be provided.

What is It?

When children come into this world, they have many skills they need to learn. These skills range from crawling and walking, to talking and communicating. These skills usually emerge naturally over time, but will emerge differently according to the individual characteristics of the child. The timetables for these developing skills are commonly called “developmental milestones.” These milestones are broadly defined because we know that children don’t learn skills at the same pace. Developmental delays occur when skills don’t emerge as expected, more or less on that broad schedule. This is when teachers and parents should become concerned (NICHCY, 2012).

How to Identify and Respond

girl playing with toy train

If you are concerned about a child, the child should have a developmental screening. This is just to see if the child is, in fact, experiencing a developmental delay. The screening is a quick, general measure of the child’s skills and development. If the child appears to be experiencing a delay, the child should be referred to a highly trained professional who can conduct a more in-depth developmental evaluation. In the evaluation, professionals look at five developmental areas:

  • Physical development (fine and gross motor skills)
  • Cognitive development (intellectual abilities)
  • Communication development (speech and language)
  • Social or emotional development (social skills, emotional control)
  • Adaptive development (self-care skills)

Under IDEA, intervention and special education services are made available for children aged three through nine who are experiencing delay in one or more of these areas if it affects the student’s educational performance. Early intervention programs are also provided for children under the age of three. In order to qualify for services under developmental delay, the evaluation team must determine that the student’s primary disability is a developmental delay and not one of the other disability categories. It also must require special education and related services in order for services to be given (Utah State Board of Education).


National - About 1 in 6 children in the U.S. were diagnosed as having a developmental delay in 2006-2008.

References and Websites

United Kingdom



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