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Children's Medical Services - Special services for children with special needs
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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 6, Lesson 1

Health Issues Related to Developmental Disabilities

A developmental disability is defined as a chronic disability that results in a physical and a mental impairment. In contrast, a developmental delay is a lag in one of the developmental areas. A developmental delay may not result in a disability especially if the delay is due to environmental circumstances that are amenable to intervention. A chronic or substantiated developmental disability is usually observed during infancy or early childhood and usually continues throughout the life of an individual. Individuals who have a chronic developmental disability are in need of special supports and services from diverse specialists and interventionists because of functional limitations in several domains.

baby smilingInfants and toddlers with developmental disabilities are often much more susceptible to health problems due to the limitations in their development. For example, a young child who has restricted physical movement cannot cough and clear his/her lungs as easily as a child who does not have this limitation. A common cold that a typical child can easily manage may represent an issue or catastrophe for this child with decreased mobility. Examples of common developmental disabilities that result in increased risks to physical health include cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and spina bifida.

It is important for the ITDS to understand the difference between an established condition or disability that is a lifelong condition and a developmental delay that with intervention can show improvement.


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