Plain Language Summary: Early Childhood & Developmental Disabilities

Developmental disabilities are disabilities that can affect multiple aspects of a person’s life. These disabilities occur during childhood and can cause lifelong problems. Typically, developmental disabilities are noticeable before children start school. Developmental disabilities can affect physical, social, academic, or cognitive skills. Examples of developmental disabilities include autism spectrum disorder, learning disorders, and global developmental delay.

Parents and providers should be aware of when childhood milestones happen. For example, crawling, walking, talking, etc. If a child is not meeting these milestones, the provider can help parents know when to get an evaluation. An evaluation can help your family get the services your child might need.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many providers who perform these evaluations and there are often long waitlists to get in. This is especially a problem in rural areas. Recently, providers have been changing their methods so they may evaluate children through telemedicine. The government also provides funding for local school districts to evaluate children for disabilities. These children are entitled to free or low-cost services from birth until they turn 22.

Each state in the United States has a Parent Center and a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD). These agencies can help families connect to local resources.

For more information, read the MHDD fact sheet on Early Childhood & Developmental Disabilities.

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