Developmental disabilities are a group of impairments in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime.

Developmental milestones give a general idea of what children should be accomplishing in a specific time frame, such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye-bye”.  When a child isn’t “on track” with the milestones, a pediatrician may recommend a screening to see if any deficits are apparent.


Causes: Most developmental disabilities are thought to be caused by a complex mix of factors. These factors include genetics; parental health and behaviors (such as smoking and drinking) during pregnancy; complications during birth; infections the mother might have during pregnancy or the baby might have very early in life; and exposure of the mother or child to high levels of environmental toxins, such as lead. For some developmental disabilities, such as fetal alcohol syndrome, which is caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy, we know the cause. But for most, we don’t.

Treatment: Early identification and intervention can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills, as well as reduce the need for costly interventions over time.  Pediatricians can recommend developmental screenings to determine which therapies are best suited for each individual.


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Facts About Developmental Disabilities. (2013, December 26). Retrieved January 24, 2015, from