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Early intervention is key for treating developmental disabilities and global developmental delay

According to the medical literature, an estimated 15% of children in the United States have at least one developmental delay with the most common being speech and language.  Developmental delay is important to recognize and address early.  When your child is young and still growing, doctors will assess developmental milestones to make sure your child’s development is on track.  Your doctor might identify some important “red-flag” milestones to monitor.   It is important that any delay in milestones is identified as early as possible.  My hypothesis is because when the brain is young, it is very “plastic”, meaning it can learn much easier compared to when we are older.   If your child has a developmental disability, learning disability, or global developmental delay, early intervention to help support them has been shown to have better outcomes later in life.  

Early identification allows for earlier treatment of any possible underlying condition that may be contributing to, or worsening the delay. 

Early intervention also allows parents and teachers to provide appropriate activities and stimulation to help their child understand and cope with their delay. 

Early identification of developmental delay is key

There have been many systematic reviews, observational studies, and randomized control studies which analyze interventions for children with developmental delay. These studies demonstrate that early identification of developmental problems results in improved outcomes for children in both the short-term and long-term. 

Early intervention is associated with a decreased need for special education services in school years. 

There have also been studies that show the benefits of early intervention can last up to 49 years after the intervention is provided!  Therefore, the younger a child is given the resources to cope with a disability, the more likely they are to understand how to cope in their day-to-day lives as adults.

Other outcomes that are affected by early intervention for developmental delay include higher high school graduation rates, higher employment rates, reduced teen pregnancy rates, and decreased criminal behavior and violence. 

Please see your health care professional if you have concerns about your child’s development.

This post was co-authored by Suzanne Black, MD, BSc and Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc.


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