Developmental disabilities are diverse chronic conditions that are caused by to mental and/or physical impairments. People with developmental disabilities encounter problems with major life skills such as language, mobility, learning, self-help, and independent living. Developmental disabilities begin anytime from birth up to 22 years of age and usually last throughout a person’s lifespan.
According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a new study published in Pediatrics “Trends in the Prevalence of Developmental Disabilities in U.S. Children, 1997-2008” reports an increase in problems in children in the last 11 years. The number of any developmental disability increased from 13.87% to 17.1% in that period. That means that there are about 1.8 million more children with developmental disabilities recently compared to a previous decade.
There was another scary number stated in the research: prevalence of autism increased 289.5%. In addition, data from this study showed that boys had twice the prevalence of any developmental disability than girls, and more specifically had higher prevalence of ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, stuttering/stammering and other developmental disabilities.
Developmental disabilities start with developmental delays in early childhood. Pediatricians can usually point out that they suspect something and would like the child to be screened or evaluated for developmental delays. However, only 15% pediatricians called Developmental Specialists have an expertise in normal and abnormal child development.
Sometimes, pediatricians will tell parents not to worry because every child is different and develops at his/her own pace. It is true that every child is unique but developmental milestones are the same for everyone. There are no exact ages for reaching milestones. Instead, there are time windows for them. The milestones must be reached within the set time frames, in the set order, and without skipping any milestones.
If the delay is suspected, a developmental evaluation is recommended. For physical delays, a physical therapist can evaluate the child and conclude whether intervention is necessary. Some children will qualify for the government-sponsored programs. A study published in Pediatrics “Prevalence of developmental delays and participation in early intervention services for young children” concludes that “… the prevalence of developmental delays that make children eligible for Part C services is much higher than previously thought”. The study states that the majority of children who are eligible for the government-sponsored services are not receiving services for their developmental problems. Some problems receiving the services can be attributed to inconvenience of finding a pediatric therapist and scheduling appointment in the time convenient for the child and his parents/caregivers.
This is where private home pediatric physical therapists come into play. They can come to the child’s home to provide services at convenient times, with minimal or no waiting times, and in most cases, they will accept the child’s insurance so that parents will not have to have out of pocket costs. The visits will look nothing like a medical office visit. The child will be involved in a fun play while working on his/her developmental skills.
The home pediatric physical therapist will use special toys, music, therapeutic balls, etc., to encourage the child to move around his/her environment in a safe manner. Therapy will be provided to help the child reach all developmental milestones on time, so that future developmental problems are eliminated or significantly diminished. The main goal of therapy will be stepping ahead towards independent leaving.