Does your child struggle with basic learning skills like walking, talking, or playing? Do they experience difficulty connecting with other children, communicating verbally, and managing their stress?
If your child develops at a significantly slower rate than other children their age, they might have a developmental disability.
While developmental disabilities are generally not curable, they can be treated. In fact, research shows that about one in six children in the U.S. have one or more developmental disabilities or other developmental delays. With early intervention, diagnosis, and treatment, children with developmental disabilities can learn how to live more healthy, resilient, and fulfilling lives.
Our team of professional therapists and counselors at HBH Therapy in our offices around Western MA and Eastern MA have expert knowledge of and treatment for people with developmental disabilities. We will deliver comprehensive behavioral and emotional health services for children and adults with developmental challenges: providing individuals the care and support they deserve.
To learn more about developmental disabilities, causes, symptoms, and our specialized treatment at HBH Therapy, please read on!
What are Developmental Disabilities?
Developmental disabilities is the broad term to describe a diverse group of conditions that affect a person’s physical and/or mental functioning. The conditions will occur before or during a person’s developmental period (early childhood), and are expected to be present for life.
The features of each developmental disability vary, but most are characterized by a delay in reaching expected developmental milestones. Examples of developmental milestones include taking a first step, saying a first word, or waving “goodbye.”
“Developmental disabilities can be detected by looking at different milestones of when a child learns how to play, learn, speak, and move. While children develop at their own pace, the developmental milestones give a general idea of the changes to expect as the child gets older.”
If your child displays limited abilities in how they speak, behave, learn, and move, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor and share your concerns. Acting early can make a huge impact on your child’s health and wellbeing.
What Causes Developmental Disabilities?
While the direct cause of developmental disabilities is unknown, it is generally thought that interactions between biological and environmental factors affect the likelihood of developing a disability. Some causes include:
- Genetic or chromosomal abnormalities
- Drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy
- Preterm birth
- Low birth weight
- Infectious diseases
Developmental disabilities can occur among all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
What are the Types of Developmental Disabilities?
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Cerebral palsy
- Hearing loss
- Intellectual disability
- Learning disability
- Vision impairment
What are the Symptoms of Developmental Disabilities?
Symptoms of developmental disabilities vary, depending on the individual.
However, developmental disabilities are identified when a parent or caregiver notices that their child does not reach developmental milestones. Children develop milestones in how they:
Some developmental disabilities can be detected early, while other disabilities become evident when children start school. Parents with questions and concerns can be supported by their child’s pediatrician and our team of mental health professionals at HBH Therapy.
How are Developmental Disabilities Treated?
Developmental disabilities can be treated through a combination of:
- Individual and family therapy
- Applied behavior analysis
- Skills training
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
Therapy for an individual with a developmental disability is often highly structured. To help the individual cope and function at their highest, the therapist will develop a trusting relationship with the individual, and find the best treatment strategies for their social and emotional needs.
“Therapists might find talk therapy less beneficial for someone with autism, or an intellectual disability, because the typical process of asking, ‘How do you feel,’ might not register for them.
My clients with autism or an intellectual disability benefit from behavioral therapy: we identify what’s going on in the world, and how they can control their reactions to situations in safe and positive ways.”
– Greg Handel, Handel Behavioral Health
Therapy types to consider for developmental disabilities include:
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Helps individuals change their thought patterns and behaviors. People with developmental disabilities can be susceptible to developing anxiety and depression, which CBT can be helpful with.
Family Therapy: Helps provide a structure for family members to better understand their loved one’s developmental disability, and learn to support the person with the disability. It’s crucial that family members are involved in the behavioral plan created between the therapist and person with the disability.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA): An evidence-based approach to therapy commonly used for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ABA helps build positive behaviors and discourages unhealthy ones. It provides skills training to help the individual with the disability communicate effectively in social and professional settings.
Creative Arts Therapy: Music, dance, and Art Therapy can be particularly helpful for children with developmental disabilities, inviting them to express themselves nonverbally.
Skills Training: Any type of therapy that involves building new social skills, coping skills, and skills for participating in work or school.
Who is Involved with Therapy Sessions?
“When I’m working with a person with a developmental disability I’ll engage with their wide social network. I’ll coordinate with their family members, teachers, or staff if they’ve living in a residency to understand and support the person with the disability. Everyone needs to be involved.”
– Greg Handel, HBH Therapy
How Can I Schedule an Appointment with a Therapist?
Developmental disabilities require special attention throughout a person’s lifespan. If you have concerns about your child, please contact HBH Therapy at (413) 343-4357.
Our mental health professionals at HBH Therapy in our offices in Amherst, Wilbraham, West Springfield, Franklin, Natick and online will answer all of your questions and guide your loved one to the path of recovery.