Developmental Delay & Early Intervention
According to The Persons With Disabilities Act 1995(Gazette No.1 of 1996,Chapter IV: Prevention
& early detection of disability), it has become mandatory to screen the child for any developmental delay & refer
to the appropriate services. Dont forget that it is right of the child. So we should better be aware of it.
The term developmental
delay refers to a wide range of childhood disorders & environmental situations. Children are considered to have developmental
delays when they are unable to accomplish the developmental tasks typical of their chronological age. Developmental delays
manifest themselves in many ways. They can be transient, as in some children prematurely, or last a lifetime, as in mental
retardation. Some other children will develop normally for a period & then regress, such as those with Rett syndrome.
They may be at risk
or have developmental delays for variety of reasons. Three groups of children can be identified who have developmental delays
or who are at risk for developmental deviations.
with established risk are those manifesting early appearing atypical development related to diagnosed medical disorders of
known medical etiology (eg, Down syndrome, spinal bifida, visual impairment).
Infants at biologic risk are those who have an increased probability for delayed or atypical development from biologic
insult(s) to the developing brain, acquired pre-, peri- or postnatally (eg, low birth weight, small-for-gestational age, fetal
Infants at environmental
risk are those who, although biologically sound, may show developmental deviations due to depriving life experiences (eg,
parental neglect, homelessness).
These three categories
are not mutually exclusive, and many infants have a combination of risk for developmental deviations affecting them, their
families, and society.
early intervention has several meanings, depending on the context in which it is used.
In this section early
intervention can be defined as a comprehensive, coordinated, community-based system for developmentally vulnerable or delayed
young children from birth to age 3 years & their families.
Objectives- Early intervention consists of multidisciplinary services designed to
-Enhance child development
-Minimize potential delays
Remediate existing problems
Prevent further deterioration
-Limit the acquisition of additional handicapping conditions &
-Promote adaptive family functioning.
The team-Early intervention team may comprise of the following specialists:
pediatrician, developmental psychologist, occupational therapist, speech & physiotherapist.
The goals of early
intervention are accomplished by providing developmental & therapeutic services for children, and support and instructions
for their families. Early intervention can be remedial or preventive in nature.
Why Early intervention?
1.Early brain plasticity-During the prenatal & early childhood stages of life, the brain
is experiencing rapid periods of development. Also the immature brain of a young child is capable of adaptive recovery to
a greater degree than the more differentiated and mature brain of adult. It is known to be highly plastic & to have more
potential for neuronal restructuring following a lesion.
2.Importance of early
experience- early experience is very important to childrens development.
for experience-Before birth and during early childhood, the brain is not only highly receptive to environmental influence
but is also highly vulnerable to it.
4.Importance of environment-the
environmental context in which young children develop is crucial for development. So the Early Intervention makes the difference.
of behavior across developmental areas- Areas of development (cognitive, language, motor, perceptual, emotional) are interdependent.
Developmental gains or gaps in some areas affect development in other areas. Therefore, for example, the motor delay should
not be the only indication for early intervention.
intervention maximizes the potential of these children for future independent living skills.
12-month-old male child who was having difficulty in rolling from supine to prone to supine, sitting without
support, coming to sit. Mothers chief complaints were he is not able to stand. This was her concern because her friend who
gave birth to the child around same child and who is walking by now. History revealed that he was having low birth weight
& neonatal seizures. She has been going to the doctor regularly & once or twice she should have mentioned concerns
about childs development. But physicians policy was wait & watch. Therapy was started, mainly Neuro-Developmental Technique
(NDT) & within two month there was improvement in the form of increased sitting balance & able to sit without support.
Point to be noted is not how the therapy was effective but how early we can notify
the problem & do something to intervene. As a medical or paramedical person we can do following things.
1.Whenever there is a risk factor keep a watch on childs development. Alert the parents to keep a watch. Dont wait
for this advice to give.
2.Listen with an open and sensitive attitude to parents worries & questions
about their childs development & behavior. When parents express a concern about the development or behavior of their infant
or young child, the concerns should be taken seriously. Routine developmental surveillance should always be performed.
3.When parents express a concern about the development or behavior of their child,
you should refer the family promptly for a more complete developmental assessment to identify the nature of possible problem.
You should assure the parents that thorough assessment is an important first step to whether problem exists.
4.If you are the person to convey to parents a diagnosis of a developmental disability
or the possibility of developmental disability, you need to take care in how information is presented to parents.
5.You should be knowledgeable about the early intervention services in your community
& should refer parents to them promptly. While acknowledging the childs disability, you also give parents hope & reduce
their anxiety by referring them to & encouraging their participation in early intervention. I think you are in a unique
position to support the hope the parents have for their childs future.
6.Present any statements about long-term prognosis carefully. Parents should
be informed that information about prognosis is based on data for group of children, & long-term predictions about
individual children are much less certain. The reality is that many predictions about future development are guesses, and
parents are often better served by messages that provide hope rather than hopelessness.
7.On subsequent visits, ask questions about the childs early intervention services
& the childs progress as a way of expressing encouragement of familys effort on behalf of their child.
First lets see which are the risk factors.
Developmental risk indicators
for Early Intervention referral
Birth weight of 1500gms or less
age of 32 weeks or less
Small for gestational age (less than 10th percentile for weight)
Ventilator requirements for
30 hours or more
Intracranial hemorrhage: grades III or IV
Muscle tone abnormalities - hypotonia, hypertonia, asymmetry
of tone /movement
Recurrent neonatal seizures (3 or more)
Symptomatic TORCH (toxoplasmosis,
rubella, cytomegallovirus, herpes type II, syphilis)
Asphyxia with Apgar score less than 4 at 5 minutes
(congenitally dislocated hips, limb deficiencies, arthrogryposis, joint contractures, congenital torticollis)
births greater than twins
Brachial plexus injuries (Erb's palsy, Klumpke's paralysis)
myopathies and myotonic dystrophy
Inborn errors of metabolism
Environmental /social risk
High social risk (single parent, parental age less than 17 years, poor quality
infant parent attachment)
Maternal drug or alcohol abuse
Behavioral state abnormalities (lethargy, excessive irritability,
behavioral state liability)
Or combination of risk factors