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Developmental Delay

Fact Sheet

What is a Developmental Delay?

Children identified as “developmentally delayed” tend to develop at a slower rate than typical children at the same age level. This may be evident in a single area of development, or in multiple areas. Developmental Delay is a non-categorical label often used by educators and health practitioners who are reluctant to identify preschoolers with a categorical label. Even with typical development, there are age ranges for developmental milestones.

How is it manifested?

Common reasons why a child might be developmentally delayed are

  • premature birth
  • hospitalization immediately or soon after birth
  • insufficient brain cell development
  • damage to brain cells before or during birth (e.g., Cerebral Palsy)

It is not uncommon for a developmental delay to co-exist with another disorder, such as

  • behavioural and emotional disorders – inherent or related to physical, sexual or emotional abuse early in life
  • sensory impairments – vision or hearing problems
  • medical/health conditions – allergies or asthma
  • genetic disorders (e.g., Down Syndrome)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

Who is affected?

Developmental Delay is the most common type of disability among preschool children. It is more common in males than in females. As children move into the school system, many are diagnosed with a more specific disability.

How is it diagnosed or detected?

For typically developing children, a paediatrician should screen for delays in their development during regular examinations. This may consist of simple questions about what a child is able to do, or may include a formal screening test.

Common characteristics, which may be apparent in a child with a developmental delay, include

  • difficulty with change or transition periods
  • difficulty remaining on-task and with task-completion
  • difficulty understanding concepts that are abstract, as opposed to concrete
  • delays in expressive and/or receptive language development
  • problems organizing and/or remembering information
  • difficulty during unstructured activities

Additional Resources:

Family Alliance Ontario is an alliance of citizens that offers knowledge, tools and networking opportunities to individuals with disabilities and their families. Their goal is to assist these individuals to realize a vision that includes having valued relationships, choice and control in their lives, and inclusion through meaningful contribution and participation in their communities.

Ability Online is an extraordinary and absolutely free Internet community. Young people with disabilities and illnesses connect with all kinds of possibilities that address their needs as curious, growing citizens of the planet. They meet and chat with other people like them in a virtual world that transcends boundaries and barriers. They make friends, get tips from mentors, and freely participate in an atmosphere of collaboration, companionship and support.

Community Living
For over 50 years Community Living Toronto has been a source of support for thousands of individuals searching for accessible and meaningful ways to live a more normal life in the community. Community living spans a lifetime and Community Living Toronto strives to support people with intellectual disabilities at different stages of their lives. Community Living Toronto believes that everyone should be a part of the community, no matter how unique or special their needs.

Community Living Ontario (CLO)
The OACL supports local associations throughout Ontario by linking the associations and their members with resources and information, and by offering training and consultation in the areas of family support, education, employment, human rights, community participation, advocacy and self-planning. This site provides access to information regarding OACL’s initiatives on behalf of people with developmental disabilities, member agencies and related links. OACL is a member of the Canadian Association for Community Living, an active participant in the international movement in support of people with intellectual disabilities.

Surrey Place Centre is a leading community-based organization in Toronto providing complex diagnostics, counseling, service coordination, behavioural therapy and educational programs to people living with a developmental disability and their families.

Uses information technology to provide integrated access to information, programs and services for persons with disabilities, their families, their caregivers, service providers and all Canadians.

Guide to Government of Canada Services for People with Disabilities Services for People With Disabilities Guide
c/o Canada Enquiry Centre
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0J9 CANADA
Phone: 1-800-622-6232

This guide about Government of Canada services and programs for people with disabilities provides information on everything from employment, accessibility and education, to health, income support and tax benefits. A section tells you how to contact your provincial or territorial government to find out about its programs and services for people with disabilities.

The content contained in this document is for general information purposes. It is not the intention to diagnose or treat a child.

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