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What it Means to Have a Developmental Disability

What is a developmental disability?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental disabilities “…are a group of [chronic] conditions due to impairment in physical, learning, language, [and/] or behavior areas.” Amazingly and soberingly, one in six children in the United States, about 15%, has some kind of developmental disability. In some cases, more than one disability applies. In all cases, the disability lasts for the entire life of the individual.

Can developmental disabilities be cured?

Developmental disabilities cannot be cured. These conditions can, however, be managed, minimized, or sent into remission. The most important aspect of all this is that the conditions of each disability are recognized and addressed as soon as possible. Catching the disability as early as possible in childhood – before school age, even – can help to minimize any disruptive effect the disability may cause. Early intervention can also prevent or reduce the need for more expensive measures as time, and maybe the disability, progresses.

What are the treatment options?

Developmental disabilities run the gamut from mild to severe. Depending on the severity of the condition, management measures can range from a behavior modification program to manage the issue, as, for example, with dyslexia (a learning disability) to maybe some medication, as with ADHD, to medication plus a course of physical therapy (PT) or occupational therapy (OT), as with, for example, Down Syndrome.

How are developmental disabilities diagnosed?

The best way to catch developmental disabilities early is to conduct developmental monitoring by teaming up with the individual’s health care professional, often a child’s pediatrician. Developmental monitoring compares expected developmental milestones with actual development with the individual’s situation. If something that may need attention does appear, developmental screening can then be performed.

What does it mean for the future?

Many disabilities benefit from some kind of intervention and treatment that will help the individual manage paying attention to everyone who has day-to-day contact with the individual. It is vitally important that everyone has realistic and reasonable expectations of how much the person with a developmental disability can accomplish in a given amount of time. It is important to keep in mind that expectations do not limit an individual’s ability to improve and achieve. The best way to address these achievements is to applaud and celebrate every advance, no matter how small the achievement.

Do developmental disabilities get worse over time?

Usually, the developmental disability itself does not worsen over time. However, individuals may have a harder time dealing with their disability as they age and become ineligible for the support they received during their childhood. Additionally, an individual may begin to assume new responsibilities as they age, like cooking for themselves, getting a job, or starting a romantic relationship, and these things may add additional stress. A little stress is to be expected, but if an individual becomes unable to do things they were once able to do, it might be time to look into changing the individual’s services.

Knowing what to do when confronted with a developmental disability can be very tricky to navigate. Luckily, there is always help to be had. RISE is an agency that has remarkable success with early intervention programs for developmental disabilities. To start the process, reach out to RISE at and fill out a contact form. Things will move rather quickly from there.