When your child is diagnosed with a developmental delay, the news can be devastating. Like most parents, however, your thoughts will likely turn to how you can help your child achieve their full potential.
Developmental delays can have a number of causes, from birth injuries to genetic and chromosomal conditions. While developmental delays cannot be “cured,” there are treatments and therapies that can help a child “catch up” to their peers. The earlier that intervention occurs, the better their progress will typically be.
At BILA, we advocate for families whose children have been diagnosed with developmental delays and other types of birth injuries due to medical negligence. If you believe that your child’s developmental delay or disability was caused by a birth injury, reach out to schedule a free consultation.
Treatments for Developmental Delays
After a child is diagnosed with a developmental delay or disability, the next step is to consider treatments. A healthcare provider may refer you to one or more specialists, such as a hearing specialist, a speech therapist, a neurologist, and/or a developmental pediatrician. In addition, your child may be referred to what is known as early intervention services.
Early intervention programs are available for children who are at risk of or who show signs of having a developmental delay or disability. The specific services are tailored to the needs of the child. Depending on the child, it may include occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech-language pathology, and other cerebral palsy support groups and services. A treatment plan will be developed for children who qualify for early intervention.
Beyond early intervention, children with developmental delays may be eligible for other treatments. This may include:
- Vision services
- Audiology services
- Assistive technology
- Nutrition services
- Medical services
- Nursing services
For example, various limitations – such as fine motor skill delays – may make it hard for a child to hold utensils or feed themselves. Swallowing problems, digestion issues, food allergies, sensory issues, and medications can also affect a child’s nutritional status. A registered dietician nutritionist can create strategies for mealtime support and work as part of a broader team of professionals to create a nutritional care plan.
Some kids with developmental delays may also benefit from adaptive technologies. This can include everything from audiobooks as an alternative to traditional books to text-to-speech software to screen reading technology.
In addition to the above treatments, many kids with developmental delays will also benefit from a specialized education plan. As with other types of treatments and therapies, the educational plan will be customized to best fit a student’s needs. For example, a child with developmental delays may receive specialized services at school – such as speech therapy. They may also qualify for certain accommodations, like adding visual supports and cues or simplifying directions.
Finally, there may be specific treatments for children with developmental delays based on their diagnosis. This may include medication, surgery, and/or specialized therapies, such as respiratory therapy for conditions such as muscular dystrophy. These treatments will be recommended by your child’s care team.
Types of Therapies for Developmental Delays
There are a number of different therapies that may benefit children with developmental delays. The specific type of therapy is based on the child’s disability. For example, a child born with cerebral palsy (CP) – a type of motor disability – may benefit from physical and occupational therapy.
Common types of therapies for children with developmental delays include:
This type of therapy uses exercises to improve strength, balance, and coordination in children who have gross motor delays. A gross motor delay can cause difficulties with things like walking, running, jumping, and going up and down stairs. Children who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy may have gross motor delays.
This type of therapy is used to help children develop fine motor skills, such as writing with a pencil or pen, grasping smaller objects, and tying shoes. Occupational therapy can also help children with sensory processing disorders that may make it difficult for them to eat certain foods or tolerate sensations (such as loud noises) that may otherwise overwhelm them.
An occupational therapist may introduce what is known as a “sensory diet,” which is a group of activities that are specifically scheduled to assist with attention, arousal, and adaptive responses. Occupational therapy can benefit children with a wide range of developmental delays and disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Speech and Language Therapy:
This type of therapy involves a speech-language pathologist (SLP) teaching children with language and speech delays how to improve communication. This may include working on producing speech and pronunciation as well as learning to talk in more complex sentences.
An SLP may also offer assistance in relearning language skills that have been lost. Speech and language therapy is indicated for children with receptive language disorders (difficulty understanding words or concepts), expressive language disorders (a reduced vocabulary of words and complex sentences based on their age), and speech production disorder (difficulty producing speech due to an oral motor problem, such as weakness in the muscles of the mouth).
Many children with speech delays have a combination of receptive and expressive delays. In addition, an SLP may offer assistance with feeding, if a child has oral motor problems that interfere with their ability to bottle feed or chew and swallow foods.
Social Skills Therapy:
This type of therapy has the goal of teaching children how to behave in a social setting, communicate more effectively, and control their behavior. It is often offered in a group setting with a trained professional who has experience working with children with social or emotional delays, such as autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Social skills therapy teaches kids various skills, such as how to recognize social cues, interpret nonverbal cues, share, follow directions, and initiate and maintain play. It can be started as young as three years old.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
This type of therapy gives children strategies for reducing worries or fears (anxiety) and improving social and behavioral skills. Kids with social and emotional delays can often benefit from behavioral therapy.
It often focuses on specific issues, such as difficulty regulating behavior, extreme shyness, or anxiety about interacting with others. Parents are often included in behavioral therapy so that they can help their kids apply the skills that they learned to their home and social environments.
Can Treatments and Therapies Help?
As a parent, it is important to understand that if your child has been diagnosed with a developmental disability – such as autism or cerebral palsy – they will not be “cured.” While a child may overcome a developmental delay, if their delays are significant and persistent enough to be diagnosed as a developmental disorder, then it is a permanent condition. However, there is substantial research that shows that various treatments and therapies can help improve the signs and symptoms of developmental delays.
In particular, studies show that early intervention services – which are available from birth through school age – can help a child overcome or improve many developmental delays. For example, a child who struggles with fine motor skills can learn to do many tasks (such as brushing their teeth or feeding themselves) through occupational therapy. They may not ever achieve the same level of mastery as their peers, but they can and do make significant progress to improve their abilities and quality of life.
Treatments and therapies for developmental delays and disabilities should be viewed as a way to help your child become the best version of themselves that they can be. With proper treatments, your child may achieve things that you never thought possible – such as initiating play with a peer or reacting appropriately when interacting with others. They may still have limitations because of their disability, but these therapies offer hope and an opportunity for your child to learn and grow.
These treatments can often be expensive and time-consuming for parents and other family members. If your child’s developmental disability was caused by medical negligence, a birth injury lawsuit may present an opportunity for you to obtain the financial support necessary to provide these and other services for your child.
Help for Families Facing Developmental Delays
Developmental delays can cause significant challenges for a child and their family over the course of their lifetime. If your child was diagnosed with a developmental disability that you believe is related to medical negligence, then you may be able to file a lawsuit against the responsible physician or other healthcare provider.
At the Birth Injury Lawyers Alliance (BILA), we advocate for families throughout Canada who have been affected by medical malpractice and birth injuries. If you believe that your child’s developmental disability was caused by a birth injury, we can advise you of your legal options. For help with a birth injury claim, call BILA today at 1-800-300-BILA or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation with a lawyer in your province.
My Child Cannot Talk Due to a Developmental Disability. Will Therapy Help?
It depends on your child, their diagnosis, and the reason why they are unable to talk. It is important to remember that even if your child is not verbal, that does not mean that they are unable to communicate. There are many different ways that a child can communicate without speaking, such as assistive devices, sign language, picture exchange communication (PEC), and even gestures. Complementary therapies such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral therapy can work together to help your child learn to communicate in whatever way works best for them.
If your child’s developmental delay was caused by a birth injury, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault parties. Reach out to BILA to schedule a free consultation with a birth injury lawyer in your province.
Will My Child Ever “Catch Up” with Their Peers?
It depends on the individual child, their diagnosis, and the severity of their developmental delays. Many children can – with the help of therapies and treatments – achieve milestones that their parents may not have thought possible. The key is to get your child into these therapies as soon as possible after learning about their diagnosis. This will help to ensure that your child reaches their full potential.
At BILA, we understand that parents often struggle to come to grips with their child’s diagnosis. Our goal is to offer advice and necessary information – and to help you seek justice if your child’s developmental disorder was caused by medical negligence. Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation with a birth injury lawyer in your province.